Peppers are edible at any stage so you can decide for yourself when you want to pick your peppers; however, the best time to pick peppers is when they are fully ripened. Fully ripened peppers will be their full size, contain the most nutrients, and have the highest sugar and capsaicin content (be at their fullest flavor).
Yellow, orange, and red bell peppers are all different varieties of bell peppers that have fully matured. They all start off growing as green bell peppers.
Green bell peppers are cheaper because a grower can pick them earlier and so use less water, fertilizer, and care to produce them.
A light green bell pepper is less ripe than a dark green bell pepper and will be more bitter and have less nutrients.
Still it can be a good idea to harvest peppers, especially smaller ones that produce a lot, while they are still green so that you have some peppers earlier and to extend the production time of the pepper plant. Picking peppers early can promote the growth of more peppers.
How Do I Know When My Peppers Are Ready To Pick?
To know when peppers are ready to pick you should know how large the variety of peppers you’re growing should be and what color they should be at full maturity. Another way to tell is to look for small white dots and lines along the pepper’s skin.
Most peppers form these growth lines, sort of like stretch marks, when they approach their full size, so they can be a good indicator of when to harvest your peppers.
Peppers should be easy to pick from the plant when they are ripe so that’s another way you can tell if they are ready to be harvested.
If the peppers easily snap off in your hand you can be confident that they are ready for harvest. On the other hand if you have to fight with the plant to pick the pepper it’s likely not fully ripened.
Best Time of Day To Pick Jalapenos
The morning is the best time of the day to pick jalapenos. Peppers, like most produce, tend to dry out over the course of the day. By picking in the morning you’ll be harvesting peppers when they are juicy and crisp. They will have better flavor and store longer.
Ideally, you should pick your jalapenos early enough that they haven’t been affected by the morning sun. Over the course of the day, the water near the outside of the jalapeno will evaporate, causing the skin to become soft and a little dehydrated.
During the night, the pepper regains the water it lost over the course of the day. By the time morning comes, the peppers are full, crisp, and perfect for harvesting.
Peppers picked in the afternoon can also stress the pepper plant while it’s already dealing with some heat stress from the midday sun.
You might also be interested in “How To Store Jalapenos“.
How to tell when to harvest peppers is similar for almost all peppers. When they reach their full size and have completely changed color they are fully ripened. Here is a little more detail for some types of peppers.
When To Pick Serrano Peppers
Serrano pepper plants usually take less than three months to produce ripe fruit. You can harvest serrano peppers when they are still green or you can wait for them to darken and become fully ripe. Most serrano peppers turn red when they are fully mature, but some can become yellow, orange, or even brown.
When you pick your serrano peppers can also depend on personal taste. Green serrano peppers tend to be milder, so those with a lower tolerance for spice or who plan on using the peppers for a mild dish should pick them while they are green. Fully ripened peppers are typically spicier, so those who prefer more spicy food will be rewarded for a little more patience.
Serrano peppers may also form growth lines when they are ripe. These are small white lines that appear along the sides of the pepper as it reaches its full size. If your serrano peppers have growth lines, you can go ahead and pick them. They’ve grown to their full size and will likely be fully ripe soon if they aren’t already.
When To Pick Mammoth Jalapenos
Mammoth jalapenos should be picked when they are a shiny, dark green color. Typically this takes a little over three months from the time the plant started growing.
Like their regular-sized cousins, mammoth jalapeno peppers darken into a deep glossy green when they are ripe. They may also develop small yellow, orange, or brown spots and lines which are another sign that they are ready to be picked.
Aside from color, the texture of a mammoth jalapeno’s skin is another good indicator of its ripeness. Ripe peppers may develop growth lines, or small white lines stretching across the surface of the pepper.
When you pick your mammoth jalapenos might also depend on your personal preferences. As peppers ripen on the plant they become spicier, so harvesting them early might be a good idea for those who prefer milder food.
When To Pick Early Flame Jalapenos
Early flame jalapeno peppers turn a bright, glossy red when they are ripe. As their name implies, they ripen faster than other peppers, taking only about 10 weeks to become fully mature.
Like other peppers, early flame jalapenos can be eaten green, but when they are fully ripened they are a vibrant red. The color change is the best way to know that Early Flame Jalapenos are ready to be harvested.
Early flame jalapenos also show their ripeness with small white dots that eventually stretch into long pale lines running up and down the pepper’s length. These lines are signs that the pepper is finished growing and is ready to be picked.
When To Pick Anaheim Peppers
Anaheim peppers are at their ripest when they are a dark greenish red orshiny red color and about seven inches long. Anaheim peppers usually take around three months to grow to maturity.
Anaheim peppers are large and can quickly grow to over seven inches long if fully mature. That means that even if you pick the peppers before they are fully ripe you can still get several large peppers with each harvest.
Like other peppers anaheim peppers are at their spiciest when they are fully mature. Because the anaheim pepper is one of the mildest chilis, even those who prefer mild food may want to wait until their peppers are fully mature if they want them to have a little kick.
Because of their large size and bright color some people even grow anaheim peppers for ornamental use. If this is the case, you should pay close attention to your peppers’ colors as they grow. Once they are a bright red, be sure to pick them you don’t want them becoming wrinkled and overripe before you can hang them up for decoration!
When To Pick Cayenne Peppers
Cayenne peppers are fully ripe when they are red and four to five inches long. You can harvest them at any time but for full flavor, spiciness, and highest nutrition levels wait until they have fully changed color.
On the other hand, if you like the flavor of cayenne peppers but don’t want them to be as spicy as possible, you might want to pick the peppers when they are still green.
You can also tell a cayenne pepper’s ripeness by its sheen. Even green peppers have bright, waxy skin when they are ready to be picked.
Many people who eat cayenne peppers do so for their hot, smoky flavor. If that’s the case, you should wait to harvest your peppers until they are entirely red and have a bright, waxy sheen. They are at their hottest when they’re at this fully ripe stage.
There are times when it makes sense to harvest peppers early, mainly for pepper plants that will produce lots of peppers. Check out “How Many Peppers Grow Per Plant?” for more on that.
Peppers that are fully mature will change color or darken, be at their full size, easily pull off the plant, and may have stress lines or dots. The best time to pick peppers is in the morning when they are full and crisp and will store for longer.
What do you look for before harvesting your peppers? Please comment with the signs you look for in your garden!