As a former Guinness World Records title holder for the hottest chili, it’s no wonder a lot of home gardeners want to try growing habanero.
This starter pepper plant will thrive in hot weather, so plant the seeds two weeks before the last date of frost in your area.
When to harvest habanero? The key thing to remember is to pick all habanero peppers off the plant before fall when temperatures begin to drop. It’s up to you to decide whether to harvest them when they’re still green and firm or red and ripe right at the end of the growing season.
How Do You Know When Your Habanero Is Ready To Harvest?
Habanero pepper plants require a long and warm growing season. In fact, you will learn that the longer the variety takes to grow, the hotter it is.
To give you an idea, it’s tagged as Very Hot on the Scoville Scale, with a rating of 100,000 to 350,000.
If this is your goal, it’s important that you time your harvest correctly to enjoy your habanero peppers.
The seed packet will most likely tell you how many days to wait before you can harvest habaneros.
However, you can’t always trust that number because there are many factors that can affect just how fast your habanero plants grow.
So, how do you know when is the best time for picking?
Signs Your Habanero Peppers Are Ready for Picking
Think your habaneros are nearing their harvest date? Here’s how you can say for sure:
Habanero peppers will go from green to orange and then become red when fully mature. This is when you’ll know it is done growing.
That said, you can harvest and eat them in any color, green having the mildest flavor and red the hottest.
To know which one you prefer the most, harvest a few green habaneros to taste them. Do the same with orange ones and the red, fully mature ones.
Another indicator of ripeness is the size of the fruits. Again, the seed packet and the variety of habanero you’re growing should tell you the recommended size.
Roughly speaking, habanero peppers are fully ripe when they are about one to 2.5 inches.
If you want them spicier and hotter, grow and harvest a smaller variety, where all the flavors are concentrated in a more compact space.
Ripe habanero peppers will almost always show brown lines that say they are ready for picking.
More than the color and the size, this sign is the best way to tell their ripeness.
Ease of Picking
Lastly, mature habaneros will snap off almost effortlessly from the stem. Other times, they might even fall off on their own.
When you see them falling off of the plant, there’s a good chance that the others are also ready for picking.
Harvesting Different Types of Habanero
What if you plan on growing different types of habanero peppers?
To ensure the best harvest times, here are the most common habanero varieties and how to know if they’re ready for picking:
Golden-colored Big Sun habaneros grow two to 2.5 inches in length and have fewer seeds than other habanero varieties.
They take approximately 90 days or three months to fully mature.
Hot Paper Lantern
Like Big Sun, this habanero cultivar takes 90 days to grow and be ready for harvest. However, they are often longer at three inches.
They sport a beautiful red exterior, are pendant-shaped and are bulkier than other habanero types when fully mature.
This habanero pepper cultivar once held the Guinness World Record’s hottest habanero, so it’s also one of the most popular.
The Red Savina has wrinkly, dark red skin. It will be ready to harvest in about 90 days at approximately two inches.
Compared to the first three, the Jamaican Chocolate cultivar takes 100 days to fully mature. Around this time, the fruits will be around 1.5 to two inches long.
As the name suggests, this habanero pepper has chocolate brown, wrinkled skin. Some even say they look like prunes when mature.
When ready for picking, this habanero cultivar will measure 1.5 to three inches. The fruits will turn a deep red color with creases and folds on the surface.
They will ripen in about 100 days, and you will notice the seeds looking a bit creamy.
Another popular habanero pepper variety, you will often find Orange Habanero in home gardens. That’s because they are slightly sweet and fruity but also hot and spicy.
This thin-skinned cultivar is bright orange in color and grows from one to 2.5 inches in size. They take roughly 110 days to mature.
Like Orange Habaneros, the Yucatan White cultivar takes 110 days to be ready for picking, which is when it will be around one to 2.5 inches long.
Unlike others with bright-colored skin, this jelly bean-shaped habanero is white and wrinkly.
What Happens If You Don’t Harvest Habanero?
As mentioned, you can pick habanero peppers before they are fully mature. Some varieties are ripe enough for picking and eating around 75 days after planting.
The earliest you can pick habaneros is when they are green; anything before that won’t taste as good.
If you did pick earlier than intended, you could ripen them off by placing them in a well-lit and warm spot in your kitchen.
What will happen if you don’t pick them when they are mature?
Leaving ripe habanero peppers on the plant for too long will cause them to either fall off on their own or wilt and rot.
The flavors also won’t be as potent as you’d like them to be.
On top of this, you’ll be making it harder for the habanero pepper plant to produce more fruits.
That’s because it will focus on growing the already mature fruits instead of producing new peppers.
How To Harvest Habanero
If you think your habanero peppers are ready for picking, here are the steps to follow:
Step 1: Prepare your garden tools.
In harvesting habanero peppers, you will want to use a knife or garden shears and wear a pair of gloves.
This way, you can protect your hands from the oils that can irritate the eyes and those with sensitive skin.
In line with this, you should also remember to wash your hands thoroughly after picking habanero peppers.
Step 2: Locate the fruits that are ready for harvest.
Inspect your habanero pepper plants and look for fruits bearing the signs of ripeness we talked about earlier.
You can rely on the color and size, but the best indicator is the brown lines you’ll find on the skin.
Don’t tug on the fruits to avoid stressing the plant. Again, if they don’t snap off easily, they are most likely not done growing yet.
Step 3: Start harvesting.
Wait when the plants are dry to lower the risk of spreading disease, even if the plants show no signs of any infection.
With your gloves on, begin harvesting ripe habanero peppers by snipping off the stem. Make sure you leave about an inch of stem on the fruit.
Harvest regularly to encourage the plant to grow more fruits.
Step 4: Protect your habanero pepper plants.
If outdoor temperatures drop and there is a fear of frost, cover your habanero plants to prevent them from freezing and dying.
In some cases, it might be better to pick them all at once, especially if temperatures drop to 35 degrees at night.
Step 5: Store for future use.
Freshly harvested ripe habanero peppers will stay fresh in the fridge for roughly two weeks. Make sure you keep them in a clear plastic bag in the crisper drawer.
Should You Wash Habanero After Harvesting?
Habanero peppers have high water content and will dry out and decay quickly.
So as not to speed up the process, do not wash them before storing them. Instead, you can brush off or wipe away dirt.
Also, we don’t advise keeping them in a sealed-off container. They will store best in the fridge’s crisper drawer where there’s enough ventilation.
Once you’re ready to eat them, rinse them well under running water before adding them to your dishes.
Can You Eat Habanero Immediately After Harvesting?
Habanero peppers are ripe enough for eating anywhere from their green- to the red-colored stage.
You just have to figure out which flavor you like best, as the more mature ones will be hotter than green habaneros.
After picking, you should consume your harvest within 14 days to enjoy them at their best.
If that’s not possible, you can dry them out either right on the stem, on your kitchen counter, or using a dehydrator.
Though they won’t taste like freshly picked habaneros, preserving them will ensure you have enough to last you throughout the year.
Growing habanero peppers might take longer than other plants in your garden, but there’s no doubt the wait will be worth it.
These plants are also perennials, which means you can expect them to continue growing and producing fruits for years to come.
Given the right growing conditions, your habanero pepper plants will thrive and allow you to add a spicy kick to many of your recipes!