Love spicy food? If so, you must know about ghost peppers, which once were the hottest in the world.
That said, there’s more to ghost peppers than their hotness, which is why many home gardeners grow them in their gardens.
Fortunately, with warm temperatures and plenty of suns, you will find them easy to grow to maturity.
When to harvest ghost peppers? Ghost pepper fruits take more than five months to mature. They will start from green to a glowing red color, which is when they are the hottest and most flavorful.
How Do You Know When Your Ghost Peppers Are Ready to Harvest?
The ghost pepper is a hybrid chili pepper that is refined in northeast India. Even though it is a hybrid, it is still a pepper.
With a SHU rating of over a million, consuming too much ghost pepper can cause seizures and heart attacks.
To give you an idea, it is actually estimated to be around 170 times more intense than Tabasco sauce and about 416 times hotter than a mild jalapeño.
You can grow different varieties, but the most common is red ghost pepper. Here’s how you can tell if the fruits are ready for picking:
The Color and Firmness
Ghost peppers will change colors from green to red. Roughly speaking, this entire process can take four to six weeks or longer.
Ripe ghost peppers can be anywhere from two to three inches long and about an inch wide.
If you like green ghost peppers, harvest them when they are about a golf ball size. For orange ones, wait until they become tennis ball size.
For the most flavorful of all, it’s best to harvest red ghost peppers when they are the size of a small apple.
Aside from the color, how firm the fruit is can also tell you if it is ripe enough for picking.
To check, look for a red ghost pepper and squeeze it gently, making sure you don’t bruise it. It should not be too stiff or too soft.
If you find the fruit too soft, it could already be overripe, so harvest them all before they begin to rot.
Ghost peppers require a long growing season, so they are often started indoors two to three months before the last frost date in spring.
You then move them outdoors once nighttime temperatures don’t go anywhere below 60 degrees.
Depending on where you are, harvest time will likely be late summer to early fall or when temperatures have gone down to
As mentioned, ghost peppers have a long growing season.
From sowing the seeds to harvest time, you will have to wait anywhere from three to five months, depending on the climate in your area.
How quickly they grow varies largely based on the moisture content and warmth of the soil.
If you plant the seeds around the third or fourth of April, you can expect harvest time around late August to late September.
What Happens if You Don’t Harvest Ghost Peppers?
Ghost peppers are a hybrid of chili peppers and will change colors from green to yellow to red.
Provided with the ideal growing conditions, you won’t need to be an expert gardener to grow ghost peppers.
That said, not harvesting the fruits at the right time will result in overripe ghost peppers.
Around this time, the fruits will become too soft and harder to harvest because the capsaicin might get on your skin and burn you.
Even if that’s the case, it doesn’t mean all your hard work is for naught. You can still harvest and dry overripe ghost peppers.
Also, don’t expect the flavor and hotness to be at their highest around this time.
If you want to continue growing ghost peppers, you can save the seeds.
To do this, just leave one ghost pepper fruit on the plant for one extra week after its skin becomes red.
After that, the seeds inside the fruit will have completely developed.
How To Harvest Ghost Peppers?
After patiently waiting for months, it’s finally time to enjoy the fruits of your hard work!
Again, harvesting ghost peppers are slightly trickier than other peppers because of their high level of capsaicin.
As such, it’s important that you practice caution by wearing appropriate safety gear.
Step 1: Plan your harvest.
Once you’re sure the fruits are mature enough, you can now prepare for harvesting. Basically, the steps to picking ghost peppers are similar to other peppers.
For instance, the ideal time to start harvesting them is around nine to 10 in the morning, just after the morning dew has dried.
Expect each healthy plant to have a maximum yield of 50 fruits at any one time.
With the right growing conditions, you might be lucky enough to have more than one harvest.
However, because they have a longer growing season, their cycle may be less than other chili pepper varieties.
Step 2: Prepare your tools and gloves.
To prevent skin irritations and burns, wearing nitrile gloves when handling ghost peppers is a must.
You will also want to use sharp scissors or pruning shears to reduce your contact with the fruit and its oils.
Using such tools also guarantees you don’t damage its thin skin.
Lastly, it would help if you prepare a basket to carry all your freshly harvested ghost peppers.
All of these will streamline the entire harvesting process and will make your job easier.
Step 3: Pick the peppers with a bright red color.
Although you can pick green ghost peppers, you can’t expect them to be as hot as the red ones.
So, if you want to enjoy the full experience, only harvest the fruits that are bright red in color.
To start harvesting, gently hold the fruit in one hand and cut the stem with the other hand using your pruning scissors.
Do not pull the pepper from its stem; even if you are wearing nitrile gloves, you might still squeeze the capsaicin oils out and burn your skin if you do this.
Continue looking for ripe ghost peppers and picking them one by one.
Step 4: Continue caring for your ghost pepper plants.
These plants love moist soil, so continue your regular watering schedule after the first harvest.
If you’re fortunate enough to have the ideal growing conditions, you can have several harvests in a single season.
It will also do your ghost pepper plants if you fertilize them during their active growing season.
Should You Wash Ghost Peppers After Harvesting?
Ghost peppers have thin skin, so exposing them to too much moisture will encourage mold growth.
That means it’s not the best idea to wash them if you are not going to eat them yet.
Instead, you can just brush off the dirt from the surface of the skin and store them in a bag.
Once you’re ready to give it a taste, make sure you wash it first.
Doing this is not at all complicated; in fact, it’s just like washing any other type of chili pepper.
You will want to use a colander and a bowl combo, again making sure you wear nitrile gloves every time you handle them.
Rinse each fruit under cold water to maintain its crispness. Then, dry it thoroughly with a cloth or paper towel.
After all this, you can now use your ghost pepper any way you want.
Can You Eat Ghost Peppers Immediately After Harvesting?
While ghost peppers will continue to ripen off the plant, you can eat them immediately after picking them.
As mentioned, all you need to do is wash them first before pairing them with your favorite protein or mixing them in your special stew.
Because of how hot these peppers are, even just a fraction of a single fruit can spice things up to a whole other level.
Some even choose to eat raw ghost peppers.
How To Store Ghost Peppers
Since consuming too many ghost peppers in one sitting can cause serious side effects, learning how to store them for later use is a must.
For short storage, you can put them in a perforated plastic bag or poke tiny holes into a regular one.
You do this to allow proper ventilation and prevent mold growth. Then, place the bag in your fridge’s crisper drawer or a vegetable section.
Some process ghost pepper fruits into hot sauce.
Others prefer drying ghost peppers and turning them into ghost pepper powder.
These last two storage methods guarantee longer storage; you can even turn it into a small business.
Even if ghost peppers aren’t as easy to grow as other chili peppers, there’s no denying they are worth the effort.
Especially if you love all things spicy, you will love the thrill of trying out this extra hot pepper.
The best part is that you can eat it raw, add it to stews, turn them into a hot sauce, or dry and grind them into powder.
Besides its one-of-a-kind flavor, this pepper variety also has low fat and high amounts of vitamin C, which is good for immunity.