Regardless of the variety, you grow, bell peppers, which also go by the names capsicum and sweet pepper, have a lot to offer.
Similar to fruits from the nightshade family, they are rich in antioxidants, potassium, fiber, and folic acid but low in calories at the same time.
As a home gardener, one of the things you will want to know if you wish to grow them is when to harvest bell pepper fruits.
When to harvest bell pepper? You can start picking bell peppers when they reach their full size but are still green. The longer you leave them in the plant, the sweeter they become. Their colors would also change from green to yellow, orange, and then red.
How Do You Know When Your Bell Peppers Are Ready to Harvest?
When it comes to picking bell peppers, it is not about knowing exactly when to harvest the fruits.
Instead, it is up to you to decide which flavor and color you like best.
As mentioned, the fruits will start green and then become yellow, orange, and red.
And if you have decided to grow purple varieties, the fruits will turn from green to purple and then black.
The green ones have a grassy, slightly bitter flavor profile. Then, as the fruit changes color, the taste becomes fruitier and sweeter.
This is unlike hot peppers, which become spicier the longer you leave them on the plant to ripen.
You will know bell peppers are ready for picking when the fruits are about four inches high and have a diameter of three inches.
Around this same time, the fruits will sport a rounded to blockish shape.
Given proper growing conditions, this will be anywhere between 60 and 80 days after planting.
To be sure, you can refer to the packet the seeds came in.
It will indicate how many days before the plants reach maturity and whether or not the fruits will change their color.
Ripe bell peppers are also firm but will start to get mushy the longer you leave them on the plant.
What Happens If You Don’t Harvest Bell Peppers?
The good thing about bell peppers is that you can harvest them anytime during the ripening process.
It will all just depend on the flavor and color you are looking to get.
Even better, picking off immature green peppers will encourage the plant to produce more fruits.
Once the fruits are green and have reached their full size, you will have about two weeks before they change colors and become fully ripe.
Leave them in, and they will continue to ripen and become even sweeter.
In the case of hot peppers, though, they usually become hotter the longer you leave in the plant.
The good thing about waiting to harvest until the fruits reach maturity is that the seeds will have enough time to develop.
This way, you can save the seeds to plant and grow come the next growing season.
Even if you harvest them past their maturity, you can still eat your bell peppers if they are still firm.
When growing bell peppers, be on high alert when the growing season is nearing its end.
Mature or not, you will want to harvest all the fruits before any danger of frost becomes real.
You can then use the mature fruits and toss the small ones in the compost.
How to Harvest Bell Peppers?
Are you sure that your bell pepper fruits are ready for harvest? If so, follow the steps below.
Keep in mind that your main goal is to pick off the fruits without causing too much damage to the plant.
You will also find that it is much easier to harvest fully ripe bell peppers as opposed to green ones.
Step 1: Prepare a clean and sharp pair of scissors.
Each bell pepper fruit has a thick stem that connects it to the plant, which can be tough to break by hand.
For this reason, you will want to use pruning shears or a knife to cut it off smoothly, especially if you are harvesting green bell peppers.
In doing this, make sure you use a newly sharpened and disinfected pair of scissors to cause as little damage as possible.
Step 2: Cut the stem.
Pick which fruit you want to harvest and cut the stem off, leaving an inch or two of the stem on the fruit to protect it from rotting.
Unlike hot peppers, bell peppers do not contain capsaicin oil, so you won’t have to wear gloves to protect your skin from burns.
If you do this correctly, the plant will continue to thrive and produce more fruits as long as it’s still warm outside.
Step 3: Store in the fridge for two weeks.
Each plant will give you about five to 10 fruits, so you will want to plan out what to do with them before harvesting.
If you end up with too many that your family can consume, you can always share some with neighbors and friends.
Stored in your fridge’s crisper drawer, you can expect green bell peppers to last up to two weeks.
If you leave them at room temperature, though, they will quickly rot and might not even last five days.
Step 4: Blanch or roast before freezing.
For even longer storage, you can choose to freeze bell peppers.
However, before you do, you will want to cook them thoroughly first, either by blanching via steam or boiling water or by roasting.
If you wish to preserve the fruits whole, the best route to take is blanching and then freezing.
On the other hand, roasting will make them even more flavorful.
To do this, start by grilling or broiling whole bell peppers until the skin turns black on all sides.
Then, transfer them quickly into a pot, cover them with a tight-fitting lid, and leave them in there for 15 minutes.
Once cooled, cut the bell peppers into strips and store them in the freezer.
Step 5: Preserve the seeds.
If you wish to continue growing bell peppers in your home garden, you can preserve the seeds to plant later.
To do this, pick the healthiest plants from which you’ll get the new seeds.
Compared to the rest, you will want plants that grow well, cope with changing weather conditions, has healthy branches, and produce sweet fruits with thick walls.
Harvest the first fruits produced by these healthy plants and cut the seeds out.
Each fruit should get you around 200 seeds.
To determine which seeds will likely germinate, place them in water and discard those that float to the top.
Lastly, dry them thoroughly and store them in an airtight bag.
Should You Wash Bell Peppers After Harvesting?
The only time you should wash bell peppers is when you’re ready to eat them or use them in your recipes.
If you wish to remove all the dirt, you can wipe it off using a soft cloth instead of washing it with water.
The reason for this is that water introduces extra moisture to the fruits, which will hasten spoilage.
The moist environment will encourage fungal growth, too, causing your harvest to rot quickly.
The same is true for other produce, which is why we don’t advise washing them yet if you’re planning to store them.
When you’re ready to use them, just take them out of the fridge, rinse them under running water, and start chopping.
Can You Eat Bell Peppers Immediately After Harvesting?
As mentioned, bell peppers are delicious and nutritious regardless of the growth stage the fruit is in.
You can eat it before they become fully mature and add a touch of green to your dish. Expect it to be slightly bitter, though.
On the other hand, the equally vibrant-colored yellow, orange, or red bell peppers are sweeter and will be perfect additions to salads and soups.
Another impressive thing about these peppers is that you can eat them raw, use them as pizza toppings, stuff them with meats and cheeses, or mix them in with your salad greens.
The only limit is your imagination.
Not only do they add a nice flavor and texture to any dish, but they are also quite healthy.
You might like the red bell peppers the most, which are the sweetest and pack the most nutrients.
Compared to green bell peppers, they boast more vitamin C and up to 11 times the amount of beta-carotene.
They also have higher phytonutrient and antioxidant levels than their green counterparts.
Other essential vitamins you will get include vitamin A, folate, vitamin K1, and potassium.
Bell peppers are a joy to grow in home gardens because of the colorful fruits they produce.
What’s more, these fruits are easy to incorporate into any dish and are actually very nutritious.
You can eat them raw, grilled, roasted, or fried. Better yet, stuff whole bell peppers with meat and your favorite cheeses before baking.
By adding them to your diet, you will have protection against inflammation, heart diseases, cancer, and more.