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’s fully ripe. This will happen about 4 weeks after the bell pepper reaches its full size, around 3″x4″.
Bell pepper seed packets will list the days to maturity for the bell pepper on the back of the packet. It’s important to note that the days to maturity listed on the packet is usually after starting them inside for 8 weeks.
Generally bell pepper plants grown will take 120-150 days to mature from seed and grown from transplants will take 60-90 days.
The first number is how long the plant will take to make a full size green pepper and then adding another 30 days will be when the pepper 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 and using them as green bell peppers.
This way you’ll encourage the plant to keep producing peppers and end up with more total bell peppers from the plant like this.
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 and most vegetables 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 have had more time to be less bitter and more nutritious.
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 four weeks after they have started to change color.
Are Green Bell Peppers Ripe?
Green bell peppers are not fully ripe but are fine to pick and eat. 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. All green bell peppers in the stores are the immature version of colorful variety bell peppers for efficiency and cost reasons of the growers.
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 is likely 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 a shade cloth or anything else to shade the plants during the hottest hours of the day.
Poor Soil Nutrition – Not enough nutrients in the soil would be my second guess. If you haven’t added fertilizer poor soil nutrition is a likely culprit. It will show up as yellowing plants with some brown spots and possibly new growth coming out yellow.
Jack’s Classic is a good standard all purpose fertilizer that’s water soluble and measures 20-20-20. Organic Plant Magic is my favorite organic fertilizer. Here’s a soil test kit that will tell you the soil PH and the nutrient levels of the most important 13 nutrients.
Disease will show up with plants being discolored and in worse shape than a nutrition stressed plant with more black spots on the plant. Also a nutrition problem will be through the whole bell pepper plot and disease may start on one side of the plot or the other and not affect them all at one time.
Pests can be seen on the plants and holes left in leaves where the bugs have been munching. Spray neem oil, it’s organic, 2-3x a week onto the plants. It covers the leaves with a wax like coat that insects don’t care to munch on.
Water stress can occur with the likely culprit being not enough water. Water with 1″ of water a week during vegetative growth and about 2″ a week once the plant starts to flower and fruit or when hot weather comes.
Include rainfall into your measurements. Wunderground.com gives good estimates of rainfall amounts. A rain gauge can give you an accurate rainfall measurement for your location. We have a 50 gallon rain barrel under the gutter that collects water. With 1/10″ of rain outside it’s full.
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 the plants get big enough to support large bell peppers by fruiting time.
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.
You might also be interested in “How Long Does It Take for Bell Peppers To Grow?“.
Please comment below with any bell pepper related discussion, thoughts, or experiences.