Days to maturity
Every seed packet or seedling tag will have a ‘days to maturity’ number. Jalapenos take about 72 days to reach maturity. This refers to the time between sprouting and fruiting. The actual life of the plant is longer because it will continue to produce fruit until the season ends.
Jalapenos start out a light green color. As they mature the color will deepen. They will reach maturity as dark green peppers, the typical stage of jalapenos at a market or store. The green jalapeno is excellent for fresh eating and cooking. Here are signs of ripeness:
- A deep green and glossy color
- Hints of orange or redness
- Slight cracks forming around the stem
If fruits are left on the plant to mature past the deep green phase, they will turn orange and then bright red. The flavor and heat of a chili pepper reaches its peak when the fruit is brightly colored.
For the spiciest version of your jalapeno, allow it to turn red on the plant. Choosing this method with all the fruits on the plant will reduce the number of peppers produced. As you pick fruits, the plant produces more.
If you are planning to dry your jalapeno peppers, allow them to turn red. They will be at peak flavor and spiciness and they will dry well in this phase. Green jalapenos do not have as high of a success rate when drying.
End of season
At the end of the season, it’s likely your plant still has chilis hanging on in various stages of growth. If there is a frost approaching, it is best to pick all the peppers regardless of ripeness. Frost will damage them and render them useless.
Protect your skin, eyes, and mouth from capsaicin when handling hot chilis. While it does not cause actual tissue damage, it can be very irritating and painful.
Storage and preservation
Green jalapeno peppers continue to ripen on the counter for a short period. They’ll last on the counter for a week. Put them in a plastic bag in the fridge to keep for two weeks. Preserve them further by canning, making jellies and jams, pickling, freezing, or drying.