Yellow banana peppers are mild-flavored chilis that have a lovely tangy taste. If you pick them too early, when they are still green, you will likely end up with chilis that have very little taste. If you leave it to turn red, you’ll have yourself a nice hot banana pepper.
So when should you harvest banana peppers? The exciting truth is that you can harvest banana peppers at any stage you like after they have turned yellow and are ripe. Mostly, it depends on your taste. Yellow banana peppers have a relatively mild flavor, and when they turn bright red, they are nice and hot.
When to Harvest Banana Peppers
Banana peppers are a warm-weather crop that doesn’t like frost. The best time of the day to harvest them is early in the morning when the morning dew has dried but it isn’t too hot.
There are two main varieties:
- Hot banana pepper
- Sweet banana pepper
Sweet banana peppers have the same vaguely banana-like shape as hot banana peppers, and they both turn from green to yellow when they mature. They also both gradually turn orange and then bright red.
One marked difference is that sweet banana peppers grow upwards until they get heavy and begin to hang down. Hot banana peppers hang down from the start!
The hot variety is usually longer and larger than sweet banana peppers, but the seed packet will state how big and long they should be at maturity. This will be somewhere between 6 and 8 inches long for the hot banana pepper varieties and 4 to 6 inches for the sweet types.
The seed packet will also state how many days to maturity you can expect them to grow. This is commonly when banana pepper plants have grown for 70-90 days after germinating, depending, of course, on the variety.
Once your banana peppers reach the required size after the optimum number of days your harvest can begin. From this time, you can pick hot banana peppers or sweet banana peppers whenever you want, and as often as you want.
Just make sure that you pick the peppers while they are still firm and crisp.
Also, remember that picking all pepper varieties often will promote new fruit to set. This generally means that the more peppers you pick the more you get!
But don’t pick them all at once. The plants will continue to produce new fruit throughout the growing season.
What Color Should Banana Peppers Be When You Pick Them?
There’s an easy answer to the question, What color your peppers should be when you pick them? It all depends on how hot you want your peppers to be.
Like all chilies and bell peppers, banana peppers start out green and then change color as they ripen.
Many producers and home gardeners harvest peppers when they are immature. For instance, even though many bell pepper varieties mature yellow, orange, or red, they are frequently harvested when they are green.
The same applies to many chili peppers, including the hot variety of banana peppers. Jalapenos, too, are often picked when they are a deep green color and about 3 inches long (76 mm).
But green peppers and chilies are not fully mature when they are green, even if they have reached an optimum size/length. Green banana peppers have no real taste, which is why it’s best to let them ripen for a bit longer until they are yellow.
From then on, the increased color will indicate enhanced flavor. So, yellow hot banana peppers will be mild in flavor.
It really is your choice.
If you want them hot, it’s usually best to wait for your ripe banana peppers to turn red. But unlike bell peppers that don’t continue after they have been picked, chili peppers often do if you store them at room temperature.
Picking Peppers Increases the Yield of the Plant
Once your peppers are the color you like them, start picking – and continue to pick. As noted above, picking your banana peppers will effectively encourage the plants to keep producing fruit.
The seed company, Burpee, warns that if you allow all your banana peppers to fully ripen (and let them turn bright red) this will usually result in lower yields. A good compromise is to pick some when they are yellow, and others when they fully ripen.
How Many Times Can You Harvest Banana Peppers?
You can harvest banana peppers as many times as you like. You can pick one per day every day for months if you want to – if there are still peppers on your banana pepper plants.
Also, as we have explained, you can pick them at any stage after your peppers turn yellow. The peppers will continue to ripen on the plant, so you can start picking yellow ones and continue picking until those that are left turn bright red.
What Happens If You Don’t Harvest Banana Peppers?
If you are wondering what happens if you don’t harvest banana peppers, it depends on their stage of maturity.
If you don’t harvest yellow hot or sweet banana peppers, they will turn orange. If you leave them on your banana pepper plants any longer, they will eventually turn red.
If you leave your ripe banana peppers on the plant, and you don’t rip the plant out, the peppers will probably rot or dry out and fall to the ground. This may result in new, self-seeded plants.
Generally, banana pepper plants are treated as annuals and we pull them out at the end of the season. But in warm-weather climates, home gardeners sometimes leave them to see if they produce new chili peppers the next year. Often, the plants will continue to produce for several years.
How to Harvest Banana Peppers
Picking your banana peppers is as simple as picking fruit from a tree. The secret, though, is not to tug at the plant, because that’s the best way to break the stems of the plants.
So, use sharp scissors, pruning shears, or garden secateurs, or, if you pick the peppers by hand, do this very carefully.
How to Harvest Banana Peppers by Hand
While all you do is hold your banana pepper plants with one hand and pull off each ripe pepper, don’t rip them off. You don’t want to damage the plant.
How to Harvest Banana Peppers with Pruning Shears
When you use pruning shears or another sharp tool, cut the section of the pepper that connects to the stem. Don’t cut it at the base of the stem of the peppers, where it joins the plant.
How to Harvest Banana Pepper Seeds
If you want to harvest banana peppers for their seeds, wait until the peppers turn red. This tells you that the fruit is fully ripe.
Cut the pepper off the plant with a sharp knife or secateurs. Slice through the pepper lengthwise and carefully scrape the seeds from the central cone.
Discard any flesh that comes away with the seeds. Spread the seeds on a clean paper towel in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight.
When they are completely dry (and cured), put the seeds into an airtight container and store them in a cool, dark, dry cupboard or store them until the next growing season.
Should You Wash Banana Peppers after Harvesting?
Some so-called experts recommend not washing banana peppers after harvesting. Others suggest giving them a good rinse.
If you have cut them off the plant and let them drop to the ground, there’s a good chance some will have collected a bit of dirt. You can wipe them clean, or wash them.
It really doesn’t matter as long as you dry them off before storing them.
Can You Eat Banana Peppers Immediately after Harvesting?
Like most veggies, banana peppers are at their tastiest when they are fresh. So, it makes sense to only harvest small numbers at one time.
You can store them in an airtight container or sealed plastic bag in the veggie drawer of your refrigerator for several weeks. If you spot any signs of deterioration like discoloration or fuzzy mold, remove the pepper, or cut off the affected bits.
How to Make Banana Peppers Last
Of course, you don’t have to eat all your banana peppers fresh. You can preserve them by:
Pickling banana peppers in vinegar is a particularly popular method of preserving hot pepper varieties. But you can also pickle them when the pepper turns yellow or orange.
If you freeze them they will last indefinitely, but the texture will change. For this reason, it’s best to use frozen (thawed) banana peppers for cooking rather than eat them raw.
You don’t have to blanch them before you freeze them.
Drying is an excellent option for ripe banana peppers that have turned red. Put them on a plate and leave them to dry slowly in a cool location away from direct sunlight.
Whether you are aiming for mild, sweet banana peppers or hot banana peppers that are bursting with flavor, our new gardening tips will help you decide when to harvest your peppers.
We’ve covered all our readers’ frequently asked questions, including what color banana peppers should be when you pick the peppers.
We have also discussed the effects of constant picking. And we’ve answered questions like how many times you can pick peppers from your plants, and what happens if you don’t bother to pick the peppers at all.
Use the information we have supplied to get the best out of your homegrown banana pepper plants. And be sure to enjoy the fruits of your labor.