The best way to know bell peppers are fully ripened and ready to pick is when the bell pepper changes color. Once the bell pepper has completely changed color it is fully ripe. This will happen around 3 weeks after the green bell pepper reaches its full size of about 3×4 inches.
Bell pepper seed packets will list the days to maturity for the bell pepper variety you choose. It’s important to note that they expect that bell pepper plants are started indoors for around 8 weeks and that the days to maturity listed is after transplanting the starts outdoors.
So bell pepper plants grown from seed will take 120-150 days to mature and grown from transplants will take 60-90 days. Also the first number should be how long the plant will take to make a full size green pepper and then adding another 30 days will be when the plant has a fully ripened colorful pepper.
If you still have three months or more left in your growing season and bell peppers are appearing consider picking them before full ripeness. You’ll encourage the plant to keep producing peppers and end up with more total bell peppers from the plant like this. Also you’ll have some bell peppers early and the plant will still have time to produce more bell peppers that have time to fully ripen. If you pick bell peppers while they are still immature do not save the seed to replant it because the seeds are also immature.
Best Time of Day to Pick Bell Peppers
The time of picking will affect the taste and how well the bell peppers store. The best time of day to pick bell peppers is in the early morning before 9 AM. During the night vegetables replenish moisture lost during the day and make sugars from the starches they produce during the day. Bell peppers harvested early in the morning will be sweeter, juicier and more crisp. Pick the bell peppers the morning of the day you plan to use them for optimal flavor.
Picked during the heat of the days peppers will have less moisture in them and not store as well. You can tell the difference by squeezing the peppers early in the morning and the middle of the day. The bell peppers will be more firm early in the morning.
When to Pick Green Bell Peppers
You can pick green bell peppers at any time after they start to appear. The best time to pick them is when they are close to full size around 3×4 inches. This way you get more bell pepper and they will be slightly less bitter.
When to Pick Red Bell Peppers
You can pick red bell peppers at any time. Most red bell peppers start out green and turn to red or turn brown first and then red. If you want to pick them at peak ripeness pick them when they have completely changed to their final color or about three weeks after they have started to change color.
Are Green Bell Peppers Ripe?
Green bell peppers are not ripe but are fine to pick and eat. Quick fact, a dark green bell pepper is more ripe than a light green bell pepper.
Green bell peppers are less sweet and more bitter tasting than fully ripe colorful bell peppers . A green bell pepper is a nutritious veggie but a red bell pepper can have 2-3x the amount of vitamin C, 10x the vitamin A, and 11x the beta-carotene that it will develop when left on the vine to ripen.
Green bell peppers are cheaper than colorful bell peppers because they were picked before ripening. This is less time on the vine where the bell pepper can become blemished, less inputs like water and fertilizer, less care from a worker in pruning and training the plant, and more time that something else can be growing in the same place. All these factors make green bell peppers cheaper in the store.
Green bell peppers are the immature stage of fruit that will eventually turn yellow, orange, red, purple, brown, or whatever color the variety of bell pepper you’re growing turns when it is fully ripe. There are just a couple of varieties of bell pepper that stay green through maturity but they are rarely seen from seed distributors and all green bell peppers in the stores are the immature version of colorful variety bell peppers for efficiency and cost.
Why Are My Bell Peppers So Small?
There could be many reasons for bell peppers to grow small. Here are some things to check.
- Stressed Plants Around Flowering & Fruiting Time – If this is the first year you had small bell peppers the cause could very likely be stress. Heat stress can occur with a hot wave and daytime temperatures of 90 degrees and above. Make sure to water the plants more regularly during this time and consider putting up an umbrella or something to shade the plants during the hottest hours of the day. Water stress can occur with the likely culprit being not enough water. Water with an inch of water a week during vegetative growth and about two inches a week once the plant starts to flower and fruit or when hot weather comes. Include rainfall into your measurements A rain gauge can give you an accurate rainfall measurement. Less often deep watering is preferable so consider watering after short rains to give a deep watering. One way to know you need to water is to stick a finger in the dirt 3-4 inches and if it’s dry it’s time to water, if it’s moist let it be.
- Small Plant – How big is the plant? I’ve seen a couple good sized bell peppers on small plants but I think this is a possible cause. If you live in an area with a short growing season start your bell pepper plants indoors earlier to make sure they get big enough by fruiting time.
- Not Enough Nutrients – Not enough nutrients in the soil would be my second guess. Here’s an affordable soil test kit that will tell you the soil PH and the nutrient levels of the most important 13 nutrients. Jack’s Classic is a good standard all purpose fertilizer that’s water soluble and measures 20-20-20. Organic Plant Magic and Garden Tone are two good organic all purpose fertilizers.
- Fruiting too Early In the Season – If your bell peppers fruit to early in the season they might produce smaller peppers. After transplanting bell pepper plants outdoors pinch off any flowers that appear during the first four weeks outside to make sure the plant has enough time for good vegetative growth. After four weeks outside leave flowers that develop.