Carmen Pepper: A Sweet Italian Alternative To Bell Peppers

carmen pepper
A delightful hybrid of Italian sweet peppers, Carmen peppers are popular among pepper growers for their versatility, early maturity, productivity, and adaptability.

What Are Carmen Peppers?

Carmen peppers are a hybrid of Italian bull’s horn sweet peppers or corno di toro (horn of the bull) peppers developed by pepper breeder Janika Eckert of Johnny’s Seeds in Albion. 

The peppers debuted in 2006 and won an All-America Selections (AAS) award in the same year because of their versatility.

The All-America Selections non-profit organization tries and issues awards for new vegetable and flower seed varieties that have yet to be sold throughout North America.

Carmen peppers are one of the many different-colored corno di toro varieties developed by Johnny’s Seeds, including Escamillo, Cornito Giallo, Cornito, Cornito Arancia, and Cornio Rosso. The Escamillo variety is also an AAS winner.

Carmen peppers are famous for their exceptional sweetness, early maturity, adaptability, productivity, and versatility.

The peppers set themselves apart from other sweet peppers in their shape, but other attributes like color and size are similar.

carmen peppers
Carmen peppers, also called Italian sweet peppers, at various stages of maturity.


Carmen peppers are green when unripe and turn deep red when fully ripened. The mid-ripened versions of the peppers usually have a greenish-red color during the transition.

Shape And Size

The distinct shape of Carmen peppers sets them apart from other sweet peppers with a bell-like shape.

Carmen sweet peppers are elongated and curved like a bull’s horn. They are 5-6 inches long and 2.5 inches wide on average. Cowhorn peppers have a shape similar to that of Carmen peppers.

The two color-cycle peppers have a tapering body that stops at a pointed end. Their cavity is wide at the broader end and gradually reduces as you approach the tapered end. The crispy walls are thick and fleshy.

What Does A Carmen Pepper Taste Like? Is It Hot Or Sweet?

Carmen peppers are exceptionally sweet and fruity with no heat, being a hybrid of Italian sweet frying peppers in the corno di toro peppers categoryThey clock 0 SHUs on the Scoville Scale. 

Unlike other Capsicum annuum sweet peppers like green bell peppers, Carmen peppers have a remarkable sweetness even in their unripe green state. Bell peppers have a grassy flavor when green.

The sweet flavor of the Carmens develops further as they ripen fully to their beautiful deep red color. The peppers get sweeter than red bell peppers.

What’s The Difference Between Carmen Peppers And Sweet Bell Peppers?

Carmen peppers are a hybrid of sweet bell peppers. This explains why they are remarkably better than bell peppers in adaptability, sweetness, productivity, early maturity, and even versatility in the kitchen.

Can You Eat Carmen Peppers Green?

There’s no harm in eating your Carmen peppers in their green state. As mentioned, green Carmen peppers are sweeter than green bell peppers and do not have a grassy flavor.

Moreover, harvesting your Carmen peppers at the green stage encourages the pepper plant to produce sweeter peppers because more nutrients will be channeled to the remaining fruit.

What Do You Use Carmen Peppers For?

The versatile Carmen hybrid peppers are great as stuffed peppers when you fill them with cheese and ground turkey before baking, frying, grilling, or roasting them.

Raw Carmen peppers can be eaten as crudité or added to fruit salsas like apple-based salsas and blueberry salsas.

You can chop your Carmen peppers into salads, dice them for soups, or slice them into rings for sandwiches.

Alternatively, you can use unripe Carmen peppers in recipes requiring sweet peppers like cubanelles and green bell peppers.

Carmen peppers stuffed with meat and cheese.
Carmen peppers stuffed with meat and cheese.

Where To Buy Carmen Peppers

Carmen sweet peppers are available in some local grocery stores, Italian specialty stores, and farmers’ markets, but they’re not as common as bell peppers.

Can You Grow Carmen Peppers?

You can grow your own Carmen peppers from organic seeds purchased from garden centers and or Amazon.

Carmen hybrid peppers are developed to do well in cooler conditions but are highly adaptable to different growing temperatures. Like other peppers, they do well in full sun in warm seasons.

The early maturity of Carmen peppers makes them ideal for cold climates and regions with shorter growing seasons where the sun may not be enough in the last stages of summer.

The peppers mature in 75 days to full ripening after transplanting—about one to three weeks earlier than other sweet peppers.

To grow your Carmens, start the pepper seeds indoors about eight weeks before the last frost. Germination will occur in 1-2 weeks.

Transplant the young pepper plants in warm, fertile soil in containers or your home garden when they have 2-3 true leaves. Ensure a spacing of at least 18 inches between the plants.

Carmen peppers like light, moist, well-drained soil with pH values ranging between 6.0 and 6.8. Enrich your soil with lots of compost or well-watered manure.

Why Aren’t My Carmen Peppers Turning Red?

Don’t panic if your Carmen peppers do not turn red sooner.

The peppers stay green for up to 60 days and will have turned deep red by the 75th day after transplanting. However, ripening to deep red may take up to 80 days after transplanting, depending on the growing conditions.

Will Carmen Peppers Ripen After Picking?

Like most fruits of vegetable plants like tomatoes, Carmen peppers will ripen after picking. To hasten the ripening process, it’s best to harvest the peppers shortly after they start turning red. If the peppers are picked before 60 days post-transplanting, they may not ripen to red on your kitchen counter.

You can also make your Carmen sweet peppers ripen faster after harvesting by keeping them in a box or paper bag with a ripe tomato. The ripe tomato will release ethylene gas, which makes fruits ripen sooner.

Substitutes For Carmen Peppers

The best substitutes for Carmen peppers are sweet peppers like cubanelles, Santa Fe Grande peppers, albino sweet peppers, bell peppers, and banana peppers.

Anaheim peppers are ideal substitutes if you want to add mild heat to the dish.


Peppers have become the meeting point for three of Alex's greatest passions—gardening, cooking and writing. He is happiest watching small plants grow big and heavy with produce, and he can't wait to harvest self-grown fresh produce for his kitchen. When he is not taking care of his pepper plants, you'll find him busy cooking and sampling different peppers as he seeks the next hotter pepper.

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