Peppers can be deceiving when it comes to knowing if they're ready to pick. The truth is, you can pick peppers at any time and eat them. There are some things to know about flavor, color, and nutritional value which can change depending on when you pick peppers. Hot or sweet, the more you pick a plant the more it will produce.
Days To Maturity
Each seed packet or start will have a ‘days to maturity’ section. Most peppers are between 60-90 days, and this number refers to the time the plant will take to reach a fruiting stage from a sprout. So, keep in mind that it does not include germination time, which is on average 5-7 days. It does give you a general idea of when to expect to start harvesting peppers.
Once a pepper plant begins to fruit, it will continuously fruit until temperature decline or sunlight restriction force it to stop. So, the earlier you can get your pepper plants to maturity, the more fruit you will be harvesting. This is why in USDA zones 8 and below, pepper seeds are started indoors ahead of the season.
- Red Bell: 70-80 Days
- Pimiento: 78 Days
- Red Ghost: 100 Days
- Cayenne: 70-75 Days
All peppers begin life as green fruits. They will grow to a maximum size while green, then they will age into their fully mature colors. Green bell peppers, for instance, are young yellow, orange, and red bell peppers. They are the same pepper just harvested at different stages. Brighter peppers typically cost more at the store because they take longer to mature.
When choosing when to harvest your peppers, decide which stage you like them best. Sweet peppers tend to be sweetest and most flavorful at their fully ripened stage. They also contain the most nutrient value when fully ripe.
Hot peppers like jalapenos and chilis are milder when green. They will ripen to a red stage, at which time they are the spiciest and most flavorful. So, if you prefer milder chilis harvest them green. If you are going to dry a hot pepper, harvest it when it reaches a red mature stage to get the most flavor from your spice.
How To Pick A Pepper
Many gardeners will break peppers off the plant, but this is risky. You don’t want to damage the plant since it will continue to produce. Harvest peppers with their stems intact. Using garden clippers or a sharp knife, cut the pepper from the plant at the stem about 1 inch from the crown of the fruit. Smaller pepper stems will be shorter.