So when is the best time to pick peppers from your plants?

A few weeks back, we published an article on how to know when to pick tomatoes at just the right time (See: How To Know When To Pick Tomatoes). And ever since, the questions and emails have been flooding in on the subject of peppers too!

when to pick peppers
Peppers, unlike tomatoes, do not ripen well off the plant once picked.

When it comes to the two nightshade family members of peppers and tomatoes, there are a few distinct differences for picking, ripening and storing.

So here is a look at how to know when to pick your peppers, and how to store them to keep them as fresh as possible after harvesting.

Picking, Ripening & Storing Peppers

When To Pick Peppers

When it comes to picking peppers, there is a bit of conflicting information out there about will they, or will they not ripen off the plant.

Picking some peppers early as green peppers will allow for more peppers to fully mature later.

To be sure, peppers, like tomatoes, will mature and ripen off the plant. But they do so much at a much slower rate, and certainly not as efficiently as tomatoes. They are also far less likely to ripen enough to turn colors.

Peppers also take considerably longer to mature on the plant than will tomatoes.

Many first-time gardeners worry their peppers are not ripening correctly compared to their tomato crop. But it simply takes longer for the majority of peppers (bell peppers, jalapeno, sweet peppers, etc.) to ripen fully and turn color.

jalapeno plant
If left on the plant long enough, even jalapeno peppers turn red. We use our red jalapeno peppers late in the season to make Chipotle peppers.

The good news, however, is that peppers can be picked and eaten as a delicious green pepper at any point. Even the hot, sweet red, yellow and orange varieties. And as you will see below, picking a few early has some big advantages!

Pick A Portion Of Early Peppers

Here is a really good rule of thumb when it comes to picking nearly any variety of pepper from a plant:

As soon as a pepper plant starts to produce peppers near what should be their full size – pick at least half to consume as green peppers. Not only will it allow you an early harvest, but more importantly, it keeps the plant producing more peppers. And in the long run, will help the plant to ripen more peppers later.

plnat overload
Once peppers reach their full size, some should be picked to allow others to ripen. If all are allowed on to stay to full maturity, it extends ripening time, and the plant will produce far less.

The problem with leaving too many peppers on a plant to mature is that just like with tomatoes, pepper plants suffer from fruit overload. This occurs when a plant is trying to ripen too many peppers at once.

When this happens, it sends a signal to the plant to stop producing new blooms. And that is the last thing you want your plants to do!

Keep Picking!

The solution is to pick a few of your peppers green early on. They are still quite tasty at this point, and it keeps your pepper plant in full production mode.

picking peppers
You can leave a portion of your peppers on to turn to their fully ripened color. And yes, the more ripe, the more flavor.

As the growing season rolls into mid to late August, you will notice your pepper plants producing and turning peppers at a faster rate. This is the time to leave a fair amount to ripen fully to their mature color.

The key is to allow 50% or so of the harvest to ripen on the plant, while picking the others to keep the plants going.

In general, all peppers start out green, and will turn colors as they mature. Even Jalapeno peppers do this, turning red at the season’s end, which is perfect for making homemade chipotle peppers! See : How To Make Chipotle Peppers

Storing Peppers

If you will be canning or preserving your peppers, the faster you process after picking, the better. Just like with many vegetables, peppers begin to lose their crispness and flavor with each passing day.

storing peppers
The crisper drawer is the best place to store fresh peppers to keep them crisp.

With that said, peppers, unlike tomatoes, can successfully be stored in the refrigerator for one to two weeks with little loss of flavor or nutrients. For best results, keep them in your crisper drawer as it will keep the proper humidity for longer storage.

If you will be drying or dehydrating your peppers, do not refrigerate at all. It is best to leave peppers for drying out on a screen or rack, out of direct sunlight until you can get to them.

If you live in a non-humid area, you can actually dry them completely outdoors this way. In more humid areas, the peppers tend to mold before drying. Here in Ohio, we are forced to either use our dehydrator, or our oven to dry them before grinding into powder, spices and flakes. (See : How To Make Hot Peppers Flakes With Ease!)

Here is to getting the most from your pepper plants and your pepper harvest this year! Happy Gardening, Jim and Mary.

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When To Pick Peppers, Store Peppers – And How To Know If They Are Ripe!