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8 February 2014

Are your peppers ripe and ready to pick? Knowing when they are ripe is key to enjoying a full harvest. There are so many different types of peppers, but you can still follow some general rules for knowing when it is time to pick your peppers.

General rules for determining if a pepper is ripe and ready to pick

Good idea: Review the plant information or seed packet information from your place of purchase. This will include details of how your peppers should look, including size and color, and should also include approximate days to maturity. Normally, peppers are ready to pick 75-90 days from planting.

Are my bell peppers ripe?

Bell peppers are ready to pick when they are full size, about 3.5 to 4 inches and firm to the touch. However, if you planted a variety other than green, you should wait until the pepper has turned the expected color. Sweet bell pepper varieties include reds, yellows, purples, whites and even a chocolate brown color. Once they begin to change color, they do so quickly.

Pick them as soon as you can to encourage the pepper plants to keep producing.

Are my banana peppers ripe and ready to pick?

Banana peppers are 6 to 8 inches long when fully developed and they will change in color from the pale yellow to darker yellow, then orange and finally red. They can be picked and eaten anytime once they’ve reached their mature size, however, many people prefer to let them turn red for better flavor. This is a good one to experiment with. Pick them at various stages to decide how they taste best.

Banana peppers can be either sweet or hot and they look pretty much the same. If you’ve forgotten which you planted take a look at how they are growing. Hot banana peppers grow up and sweet banana peppers grow down.

Are my cayenne peppers ripe and ready to pick?

Cayenne peppers grow to about six inches long and just 1.25 inches in diameter. They have a very strong flavor, even when they’re small.

Are my cherry peppers ripe and ready to pick?

Cherry peppers are so named because their shape and appearance when ripe resembles a tree cherry. They are a sweet mildish pepper that turns a bright red and is usually one to two inches in diameter when fully grown – about the size of a cherry tomato.

Are my habanero peppers ripe and ready to pick?

Habanero peppers typically turn orange or red when fully mature. They are 1 to 2.5 inches long and get hotter as they mature to their final orange or red color.

Are my jalapeno peppers ripe and ready to pick?

Jalapeno peppers can be picked as soon as they are a deep green about 3 inches long. Jalapenos are most crisp when they are green, but they are also very mild. While ripening, jalepenos go from green, to dark green and then start turning red. When fully mature they are red and have a sweet/hot flavor.

Learn much more about the jalapeno pepper here – Jalapeno Peppers Information.

Are my poblano peppers ripe and ready to pick?

Poblano peppers are a larger pepper variety – about 4 inches long and 2.5 inches wide and very dark green until fully mature they turn reddish-brown in color and get sweeter.

Are my serrano peppers ripe and ready to pick?

Serrano peppers have thin walls and will ripen to red, orange, yellow or brown when ripe. They can be used green or fully ripe.

How to harvest your chili peppers

Use a knife or garden clippers to remove peppers from the plant to prevent any damage to the plant. You’ll also want to consider protecting your hands when picking hot peppers. The oils can irritate sensitive skin and you’ll also want to be sure to wash your hands before touching your face or your eyes so any residual pepper oil doesn’t burn your eyes.

You’ll also want to make sure to harvest peppers when the plants are dry to avoid inadvertently spreading disease. This is important to remember even if you can’t see any signs of disease.

General Notes and Tips on Harvesting Chili Peppers

When peppers are done growing they will pull off the plant very easily. If they don’t come off easily they are still growing. Sometimes tiny brown lines will form on the peppers. These are growth lines and indicate the pepper is done growing. If these lines are forming, pick the pepper regardless of it’s size.

If for any reason a pepper is picked before it is ripe, you can place it on a south-facing windowsill until it is bright green and ripe.

The more peppers you pick the more will harvest so pick peppers often as soon as they are ripe to continue your harvest growing.

No matter what type of pepper, they do not like weather that is too cold. If there is fear of frost, you can cover it at night and uncover it in the morning. has a garden area that tells you the risk of frost and the freeze risk. Do not go by frost risk, but instead go by freeze risk. If there is a chance of freezing, the plants will not survive.

I’d suggest picking every pepper prior to any freeze risk or prior to it getting around 35 degrees at night. If the temperature drops lower than this the plant will die and the peppers will shrivel and die.

Tomatoes are only slightly different. Most of the tomatoes can still be picked even after the plant has died. Then they can finish ripening on the window sill in the sun.

Store the peppers in a clear bag in your refrigerator’s crisper drawer for up to two weeks.

If you aren’t able to eat your peppers within two weeks, there are many ways you can preserve them for continued use all year long.

Preserving Your Chili Peppers

Now that you’ve harvested your peppers and have so many, here is some information on How to Preserve Your Chili Peppers.

Learn more about growing chili peppers here – A Guide to Growing Chili Peppers.

Additional Information

Harvesting Your Chili Peppers - How to harvest your chili peppers when it is time to pick them. | #ChiliPeppers #Gardening


  1. Rochelle Ricks

    Any suggestions of where to buy chili peppers and chili pepper seeds on line?

  2. I planted seeds from a red pepper but the fruit are black. I have six plants and all have black peppers. Is this normal? Can they be eaten?

    The seeds are from a Hawaiian chili plant. (I think)

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Dennis, there are some peppers that produce black or very dark pods. It’s possible you got one of those. If they feel firm and show no signs of rot, yes, they’re edible.

  3. So when you have the threat of freeze, there’s no better time to clone your peppers! Even if you’re not successful it’s better than a sure death.

  4. Live in SC and we are starting to get some freeze warches at night. I have a ton of green peppers on the plants still. Reapers, ghost and Trinidad scorpion. Going to tarp them all and uncover during the day while we still have some good temps, should have 50-60 for another couple weeks. Just wondering if I get in a bind with day time temps and little sun on them, can I pick green ones and try to ripen them off the plant?
    Thanks for all your recipes and tips. Love them all!

  5. Jennifer Radke

    I purchased a pepper plant at a local garden center and it is called a Cheyenne pepper. I have tried looking it up online and all it talks about is cayenne. I am not sure how to find more information.

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Jennifer, the Cheyenne Pepper looks to be a cayenne hybrid, which means it is the result of a cross between a cayenne and something else. I’m not sure what, though. I’ve never tried them, but let me know how they turn out for you.

  6. central ny I have a couple beautiful dragon thai chilli plants – brought them in a couple nights with fear of frost – still going strong – do chillis ever start to lose their heat if you leave them on the vine too long?

    REPLY: Paul, peppers can grow sweeter as they ripen, which might affect the perception of heat, but in reality they tend to grow hotter the longer they stay on the plant. — Mike from Chili Pepper Madness.

  7. Patsy Parker

    I live in Minnesota and picked a lot of peppers of different kinds before a freeze. Are the green ones still hot? Like green ghost peppers or green habaneros? Thanks.

    REPLY: Patsy, yes, you’ll still get some proper heat with green habanero peppers, though the flavor will be more “green”, not as fruity-sweet as ripe habaneros. But you can still eat them. — Mike from Chili Pepper Madness.

  8. Hi, I have some furry red peppers that were shoveling on the plant. I’m guessing they are over ripe. Can they still be used by drying them and grinding for a spice?

    REPLY: Craig, furry? That doesn’t sound very good. I can’t tell, but if they are starting to rot, I would not use them for spice making. Fresh is always best. — Mike from Chili Pepper Madness.

  9. Hi – a have a Cayenne bush that is abundant with chilli’s that are on average 6 inches long.They do not turn red and when picked at a green colour are not hot – any suggestions ?

    REPLY: Noel, cayenne’s have a good level heat. I suggest hot sauce! Or, a good chili paste can be used for many dishes. Or truly, you can cook them into just about anything. — Mike from Chili Pepper Madness.

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