When to Harvest Peppers – Gardening Tips

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when to harvest peppers

After dutifully harvesting your other crops, the end of summer means it’s finally time for peppers!

Peppers are interesting because even after they are ready, there is still a window of opportunity to decide just what type of peppers you want. To find out all the ins and outs of harvesting peppers, read on.

Peppers can be seen as an exotic plant; after all, they love the heat. And while not all climates will support them, if you live somewhere with hot summers, you can definitely grow them.

When to harvest peppers? Ready in late August and September, your peppers should be a decent size before you can harvest them, about the size of a fist. They should have a firm texture and not have any soft spots on them.

It’s best to use gardening shears as pulling peppers of the plant can result in broken branches. Cut the pepper off, leaving about half an inch of stem.

Green bell peppers are perfectly edible and you can certainly harvest them. However, if you are looking for red peppers, you will need to be more patient. It can take a few more weeks before the green peppers change color and the plant has a sweeter taste to it.

If there is any threat of frost, you need to harvest any peppers still on your plant, or else they won’t survive. Wash your peppers and store them for up to two weeks. If you have to pick your peppers when they are still mostly green, you can place them in a paper bag.

In just a few days the natural ethylene gas they produce will allow them to turn into red peppers.

How do you know when your peppers are ready to harvest?

Temperature

One factor that will determine when your peppers are ready is unfortunately out of your control, and that is your climate and outside temperature.

Peppers won’t be ready until late August or September. Those with more mild falls will be able to wait until their peppers are completely finished growing.

However, those with colder fall temperatures may need to pick their peppers ahead of schedule. This is especially true if you know there will be an early frost.

Unfortunately, peppers won’t survive freezing temperatures and instead will turn to mush. Harvest all your remaining peppers before freezing temperatures materialize. Use the larger peppers and if you have smaller, inedible ones, you can simply place them in the compost.

Color preference

Another important factor that will determine if your peppers are ready for harvest involves your personal preference. Most people aren’t aware of it until they actually grow their own peppers, but red bell peppers actually start out as green bell peppers.

So, if you just want green peppers, you can harvest them much earlier than if you want red peppers.

The same is true with hotter peppers, such as jalapenos, as they will turn from a milder green to a hotter red color. While you can certainly pick peppers at any color stage, you want to avoid being disappointed by determining ahead of time what you will get the most use out of.

Size

Size is an important factor when considering if your peppers are ready but it can be hard to establish just what that size should be.

For bell peppers, you want them to be about the size of your fist before harvesting them. If left on the plant, they will continue to grow larger but you can still harvest them at fist-size if you are itching for some fresh produce.

Texture

Finally, your peppers should have a nice, firm texture to them. They shouldn’t be rock-solid but they should not be mushy.

If peppers have soft spots on them, it means they are bruised and are prone to rot. You can still pick them but be prepared to cut out a lot of the inedible parts.

What happens if you don’t harvest peppers?

Most gardeners treat peppers as annuals, which means they only grow for one season. This is done because it is a much easier way to simply buy a seed packet, plant, and wait for a harvest.

However, there is a way to save your pepper plants and have them ready to go the following year.

If you don’t harvest your peppers on time, simply take them off the plant and place them in the compost. Then, decide if you want to save your pepper plant.

Those that are interesting in saving it will need to overwinter the plant. This involves moving the plant inside as most climates are far too cold for this heat-loving plant.

If you have your pepper plant in a container, all the better, although you can risk it and dig up your plant to move inside.

Trim off the top part of the plant by at least half. During fall and winter the branches may die off further, but this is normal.

Place your pepper plant near a window that is south-facing for the most amount of warmth and light. Just don’t leave the plant too close to the window as it could get plant frostbite from the cold air.

Then, come spring you can transfer your plant to a new pot with fresh soil. Start watering a bit more and watch for signs of growth. Once it is warm enough outside and there is absolutely no threat of frost, you can then put the plant outside.

While this process may not work, it’s worth trying it to see if it fits with your gardening schedule.

How to harvest peppers?

how to harvest peppers

Hopefully, you will have multiple peppers on a single plant, so you want to be a bit careful as usually one or two are ready before the others are.

It’s best to use sharp scissors or pruning shears as the stems can be a bit tough. Don’t cut too close to the pepper; instead, leave at least half an inch of the stem on the pepper.

If you try to pick peppers by hand and pull on them, you can risk damaging the entire branch, which means any peppers still growing can be damaged before they are ready to be consumed.

For regular bell peppers, it’s fine to harvest them with bare hands. However, if you have a hot variety, it’s better to use gloves.

Even though most of the hot oil from peppers comes from the seeds, even the outside can have capsaicin oil and if you don’t wash your hands immediately, the hot oil can transfer to your eyes and mouth, which is quite unpleasant.

Should you wash peppers after harvesting?

Yes, you can wash peppers immediately after harvest. Place them in a large pot of cold water and allow them to soak for a minute.

Then, run more cold water over them to get rid of any dirt. Pat the peppers dry after washing and ensure they are fully dry before storing them.

Once clean, you can put your peppers into a plastic bag. However, the plastic bag should have holes in it for proper airflow. You can purchase specialty bags or simply take a bag of your own and poke holes in it.

Place the peppers in the perforated bag and put the whole thing in the fridge, where they will keep for two days.

Alternatively, you can keep peppers on your kitchen counter. The ideal temperature is 55 degrees Fahrenheit. If it is too warm, you need to put them in the fridge instead.

How to turn green peppers into red peppers?

If left on the plant long enough, your green bell peppers will naturally turn into red peppers. But if the weather is changing or there is an unexpected cold snap, you may have to harvest your peppers before they have a chance to change color.

The only caveat is that if your green peppers are still young, they won’t be far enough along to turn red. Peppers that have a slight orange or red tint to them show they are in the process of further ripening and this process can continue inside.

The best way to turn green peppers red is to place them in a paper bag. The bag will trap the ethylene gas the peppers give off, which speeds up the ripening process.

If you are impatient, place a tomato in the bag too. Tomatoes also give off ethylene gas as they ripen, which will help with the peppers and their transformation.

Can you eat peppers immediately after harvesting?

When you harvest peppers, it means they are edible and ready for consumption. While you can certainly cook peppers in many different ways, you can also enjoy their crunchy, raw state.

Conclusion

Peppers are colorful, flavorful, and nutritious which is why so many home gardeners love to include them in their gardening.

After patiently waiting, they will finally be ready to harvest in late summer. You can choose to pick green peppers which can be a bit bitter, or wait for them to become sweeter in their red coloring.

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