With thousands of pepper varieties available, it can be challenging to determine the perfect time to harvest them. Every pepper variety follows its unique timeline, also influenced by factors such as climate, nutrients, sunlight, and soil quality.
The question arises: How do you identify the right moment to pick your homegrown peppers?
Read on to explore the key indicators for determining the optimal harvesting time for various types of peppers.
How can you tell when a pepper is ripe?
Because each pepper variety operates on its own timeline, knowing key characteristics will help you determine if your fruit is ripe.
One of the key indicators of ripeness in peppers is their color. While many peppers are enjoyed when green, they can also be harvested when they reach a deeper hue, such as red, orange, or yellow. When determining the ripeness based on color, it is recommended that colored peppers should be at least 95% colored before you pick them. This ensures that they have reached their maximum flavor and sweetness.
Another sign to look for when determining the ripeness of your peppers is corking. Corking refers to the development of whiteish tan-ish lines on the pepper’s skin. Think of these lines as the pepper’s stretch marks, indicating that the flesh inside has grown faster than the skin. When you notice corking on your peppers, it strongly suggests they are close to being fully ripe and ready for harvest.
When picking peppers, it’s important to consider their firmness. Ripe peppers should feel firm to the touch. If the peppers are starting to soften, it could be a sign that they are becoming overripe. Harvesting peppers while they are still firm is best to ensure the best texture and flavor.
Pepper varieties come in different sizes, so it’s helpful to refer to your seed packet or research the specific type you are growing to understand their typical size. Once a pepper reaches its full size, you can assess its ripeness based on the desired color characteristics. By monitoring the size and color of your peppers, you can determine the optimal time for harvesting and enjoy them at their peak flavor.
When to harvest by specific type
Each pepper variety grows on its own timeline. Knowing the desired characteristics is the best way to know when to pick your peppers. Different types of peppers have specific attributes that indicate their readiness for harvest. Paying attention to these characteristics will help you determine the optimal time to pick your peppers and ensure they are at their best for consumption.
Your seed packet will indicate the number of days it should take from transplanting your seedling until you can harvest ripe fruit. However, the growth and maturation process can vary due to climate, nutrient availability, soil quality, sunlight, water, etc. These influences can cause your pepper plants to mature at different speeds. It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with how long your peppers should take to mature. Still, nature runs on its own timeline, so wait until you see the desired characteristics before picking your peppers.
When to pick bell peppers
Most bell pepper varieties take at least 75 days from transplanting to reach harvest readiness. However, this timeline may vary depending on growing conditions and specific cultivars. Remember that mini bell pepper varieties may have different sizes and maturity requirements.
When picking bell peppers, they can be harvested at various stages of color, including green, orange, yellow, red, and even purple in some cases. The choice of color largely depends on personal preference and the intended use of the peppers.
To determine the optimal time for harvesting bell peppers, there are a few key indicators to consider:
- Timing: 75+ days
- Size: Bell peppers are typically ready for picking when they reach a size of about 3.5 to 4 inches in length. However, it’s important to note that mini bell pepper varieties may have smaller dimensions. Refer to the specific guidelines provided for the type you are growing.
- Color: While bell peppers can be picked at any stage of color development, waiting until they have achieved 95% coloring of the desired hue is recommended. At this point, they will display vibrant shades of green, orange, yellow, red, or purple, depending on the specific variety. The peppers will stop growing larger once they have reached their full size, which is a reliable indicator that they are ready for harvest.
- Other characteristics: Bell peppers should be firm to the touch when they are ripe. The skin should be smooth and glossy, exhibiting a vibrant and consistent color throughout. Peppers that appear wrinkled or soft may be past their prime.
When to pick banana peppers
Banana peppers have a typical maturation period of approximately 75 days from transplanting to harvest. These peppers can be picked and consumed as soon as they reach full size, offering a mild and slightly sweet flavor profile.
- Timing: 75+ days
- Size: Banana peppers typically grow to about 6″ long. They can be picked as soon as they reach their full size, or you can wait until they change color.
- Color: Banana peppers start out a greenish-yellowish color and are often eaten in this stage. If you prefer a sweeter taste, leave the banana peppers on the plant until they mature and turn red.
When to pick jalapeños
Jalapeños have an average maturation period of 65 days or more from transplanting to harvest.
- Timing: 65+ days
- Size: Jalapeños typically grow to be about 3 inches long. It’s important to note that size may vary depending on the specific variety and growing conditions.
- Color: Jalapeños can be harvested and consumed at different stages of color development. They are often picked when green, which is when they are crispest and brightest. However, if you prefer a sweeter and hotter flavor, you can allow them to fully mature on the plant and turn red.
- Other characteristics: Corking is typical for jalapeños and a sign that your fruit may be fully mature.
When to pick cayenne peppers
Cayenne peppers have a slightly more extended maturation period, usually taking 80 or more days from transplanting to fully mature fruit.
- Timing: 80+ days
- Size: These peppers can grow to approximately 5 to 8 inches, depending on the specific variety and growing conditions.
- Color: The ideal time to harvest cayenne peppers is when they turn bright red. At this stage, they have reached their peak flavor and heat level. It’s essential to pick the peppers before they soften, as this can indicate overripeness.
When to pick habaneros
Habanero peppers usually require 90 to 100 or more days from the time of transplanting to reach harvest readiness.
- Timing: 90+ days
- Size: These peppers can grow up to 2.5 inches in length, but size may vary depending on the specific variety and growing conditions.
- Color: Unlike some other pepper varieties, habaneros are typically not consumed while they are still green. To enjoy their distinct flavor and heat, it is best to wait until they mature and develop their vibrant desired color, often orange, yellow, or red, depending on the cultivar.
Does picking peppers make more grow?
Yes, picking ripe peppers promotes further growth and fruit production in the plant. When you harvest ripe peppers, it signals to the plant that its reproductive cycle is complete, and it can redirect its energy toward producing new flowers and fruit.
Removing mature peppers from the plant allows it to conserve its resources and focus on developing new blossoms. This results in the plant’s ability to produce more flowers and, subsequently, more fruit.
Pepper harvesting tips
When it comes to harvesting peppers, here are some helpful tips to ensure you gather them at their prime and handle them properly:
Harvest when it’s dry
It is best to pick peppers when the weather is dry. Harvesting wet peppers can increase the risk of rot and spoilage. Choose a sunny day or wait until any moisture on the peppers has dried off before picking.
Most peppers can be harvested by hand
Most peppers can be easily harvested by hand, especially smaller varieties. Gently grasp the pepper near the stem and give it a slight twist or tug. Ripe peppers will come off the plant with minimal effort. However, larger peppers like bell peppers or poblanos may require cutting.
Larger peppers may need to be cut
Use sharp and clean scissors or shears for larger peppers that don’t easily detach from the plant. Cut the stem about 1 centimeter above the fruit. Be careful not to damage the pepper or the plant while cutting.
Avoid washing before storage
It is generally recommended not to wash peppers before storing them. Excess moisture can lead to mold or decay. If the peppers are slightly dirty, brush off any dirt with a cloth or paper towel. Save the washing for when you’re ready to use them in your recipes.
What happens if peppers are picked early?
Several suboptimal effects can occur when peppers are harvested before reaching their full maturity. Firstly, the peppers may not have reached their intended size, being smaller than they would have been if left to fully ripen on the plant. Additionally, their flavor may not be fully developed, resulting in a less sweet or potentially more bitter taste compared to mature peppers.
Early-picked peppers also lack the unique flavor characteristics that fully matured peppers possess, often tasting more vegetal and lacking the distinct flavors they would have acquired. Hot peppers picked early may be less spicy than when picked at their prime.
Do peppers continue to ripen after picking?
Peppers have the potential to continue ripening after they are picked, although it is generally best to allow them to fully ripen on the plant before harvesting. The ideal approach is to leave the pepper on the plant until it reaches its desired color and maturity.
However, if you find a partially colored pepper that you’d like to ripen further off the vine, you can try a few methods. One option is to place the pepper on a sunny windowsill where it can receive ample sunlight and warmth. The natural ripening process may continue, and the pepper may reach its full color and flavor.
Another method involves placing the pepper in a paper bag. This can help trap the ethylene gas produced by the pepper, which aids in the ripening process. Keep the bag in a warm and dry area, such as a countertop, and check on the pepper periodically to monitor its progress.
It’s worth noting that placing peppers with other fruits like bananas or apples will not speed up the ripening process. While bananas and apples release ethylene gas, research has shown it doesn’t impact the speed of ripening in peppers.
Understanding the signs of ripeness for different pepper varieties empowers you to harvest your homegrown peppers at their prime. By paying attention to factors such as color, firmness, size, and unique characteristics, you can ensure that each pepper you pick is flavorful, vibrant, and ready to be enjoyed in your favorite dishes.