After many months of careful care, your chili peppers are now ready to be harvested. Chili peppers can take from two to four months to ripen. There is no one magic moment to harvest. In fact, chili peppers can be harvested almost anytime. Most will start off green and then gradually turn to red, possibly turning yellow or orange first. In general, the redder the sweeter; the spiciness however is not affected by this color change. However, most of the time, the smaller the pepper, the hotter it will be.
Because many chili peppers have a long growing season, in colder climates your peppers may have difficulty fully ripening. You can still enjoy your peppers before they are fully ripened, but ripening can be helped along by these environmentally friendly techniques:
- Cut a stem off the plant that contains a group of peppers and hang it upside down in a cool, dark place
- Pruning your pepper plant encourages further growth, which in turn contributes towards the ripening process.
Some Like it Hot
Each variety of pepper has a different amount of capsaicin (what makes the peppers hot). If you like your peppers as hot as possible, there are a few things you can do to bring out the heat.
- Cut down drastically on watering and fertilizing once the plants set their fruit. Obviously, you don’t want to kill off your plant, but a slight withering is fine.
- Warmer air and soil temperatures will encourage your plant to produce more capsaicin. Provide as much sunlight as possible for your plant and plant in a well-draining soil (which will stay warmer). This won’t turn a banana pepper into a jalapeno, but it will bring out the full potential of spiciness in your peppers.
Tips for Harvesting
- Mature peppers should be easily plucked from the plant, so if your peppers aren’t coming off easily, wait a little longer.
- After you pick a pepper, another flower will grow back, later being replaced by another pepper. So, the more you harvest, the greater the yield.
- Insects pollinate chili peppers. If you are growing indoors where there are no insects, you will have to pollinate yourself by using a moistened toothbrush to transfer from one flower to another.
- You can try to grow your next crop from the seeds of your latest peppers. For seed collection, break or cut the pod, leaving the core and stem intact. Hold onto the stem, and scrape out the seeds with a dull knife.
- When harvesting the peppers from the plant, cut the pepper from the stem. Pulling off could dislodge the root system.
To preserve your hot peppers, place in the refrigerator, they will keep for a week; a cool dry spot will keep them 2 weeks. Roast, peel, and store in the freezer for 6 months of use. Finally, for up to two years of use, pickle or can your hot peppers.