when-to-pick-bell-peppers

When To Pick Bell Peppers

Bell peppers are a sweet, crunchy, and versatile fruit. Eat them raw, cook them into recipes, pickle them, dry them, or freeze them for later. When purchasing bell peppers at the store, they typically come in four colors: red, orange, yellow, and green. Not only are there more colors of bell pepper, but many of these colors can be harvested from the same plants.

Bell Pepper Colors

The full spectrum of bell pepper colors includes:

  • Green
  • Red
  • Orange
  • Yellow
  • Purple
  • Chocolate
  • Ebony

All peppers will reach a mature size as a green fruit. Once they have grown to full size they begin to change color. Which colors you will get from your bell pepper plant depends on the variety grown and when you choose to harvest fruit. Some plants change from green straight to their final color. The standard orange and yellow bells or the Ozark Giant will begin life green and ripen straight to orange, yellow, or red.

Other peppers like the Lilac Bell go through different shades. The Lilac Bell is usually harvested while purple. It reaches full size as a green pepper. It goes through a yellow, then purple phase before finally ripening to red. The Midnight Dreams bell pepper is a striking ebony black color when very young. Then, it reverts to a green phase before eventually ripening to red.

The reality is, you can pick peppers at any stage. Green peppers in the grocery store are simply unripe bell peppers, which is why they are less expensive.

Harvest and Flavor

Green peppers are safe to eat, nutritious, and useful in many recipes. They tend to be less sweet and flavorful than their fully ripe and colorful counterparts. Harvest some peppers green and leave others to mature for a variety of options in the kitchen.

Harvest peppers once they have fully rounded out. The fruit should look full, not sunken in. Depending on the variety grown bell peppers typically top out at sizes between 4-5 inches in length and 3-4 inches in width.

Sometimes green peppers will ripen and change color on the counter. Avoid this by picking them before they show signs of turning color. If you’d like to ripen them intentionally off the plant, wait until they show streaks of the new color to harvest.

Storage and Preservation

Store fresh peppers in a paper bag in the fridge. They will produce a gas that ripens fruit around them so avoid putting them in a drawer with other fruit. Once cut, they can be placed in plastic to store.

Preserve peppers by freezing, drying, canning, or pickling them. One popular method is by canning them in a salsa with other vegetables.