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Harvesting Jalapenos – When and How To Pick

If you are new to growing peppers, you will probably need some help knowing when to pick jalapenos. Jalapenos are fairly slow-growing, and therefore it can be tough to know when they are ready for harvesting.

In this article, we will cover all of the steps to harvesting jalapenos the right way. It is very easy, and with our guidelines and questions answered, you will be confident that you are doing it right!

Harvesting Jalapenos

In This Article


When To Harvest Jalapenos

When growing jalapenos, there are several easy-to-spot signs that a pepper is ready for harvest. In general, jalapenos should be 3-5 inches in length, firm to the touch, and have a deep green or red (more mature) color.

The color will depend on the pepper’s age, but many people prefer to pick jalapenos before they turn red.

Jalapeno Stages of Ripeness

The most obvious signal that a jalapeno pepper is ripe is color. During the growing season, you will watch your peppers turn from light green, to darker green, to almost black, and finally to bright red.

Jalapenos are traditionally picked before they turn red, but allowing them to ripen to red will increase both heat and sweetness in the peppers. Yum! Nothing like a red jalapeno pepper diced up and added to some fresh salsa.

However, some gardeners prefer to pick jalapenos early. Green jalapenos are more crisp and crunch, great for pickling.

Another clear sign that a pepper is maturing is the pepper’s size. Jalapenos will grow from a tiny pea-sized bud to around 3-5 inches long when mature. The length will depend on the exact pepper variety, along with growing conditions. If your plant has not had full-sun exposure, the peppers may be smaller and take longer to mature.

One other good sign of maturity in jalapenos is called corking. These are the small, white lines that can develop on the pepper’s skin. This is completely safe to eat, and is actually a desirable characteristic to most Pepper Geeks!

Jalapeno corking
Healthy corking on Jalapeno

When Are My Jalapenos Ready To Pick?

Is it too early? Can I pick that pepper now, or is it not ready yet? To put it simply, once a jalapeno pepper has reached full size and a mature coloration (deep green or red) the pepper can be picked. Whether you want to leave it on the plant longer to allow it to mature further is up to you.

We recommend picking peppers as soon as they are at the desired color to allow the plant to produce more peppers before the end of the season.

Leaving peppers on the plant for longer than is necessary can slow down the growth of other, younger peppers and lead to smaller yields.

Learn more about maximizing yields in our article here.

How To Pick Jalapeno Peppers

Once your peppers are ready to be picked, it’s time to harvest. The process is simple, but it is important not to damage the plant when picking. Here, we outline our method for safely picking jalapeno peppers off the plant.

  1. Identify ripe peppers. We’ve outlined the signs of a ripened pepper. If the pepper isn’t ready, leave it alone! If it is ready, continue on to step two.
  2. Hold the plant. Using one hand, gently hold the plant’s branch just below the pepper to avoid jostling the entire plant when picking the pepper.
  3. Pull the pepper upwards. Jalapenos usually hang downwards, with the bottoms pointed directly at the ground. The stems are therefore curved from the stem to the pepper’s top. Push the pepper vertically upwards to pick the pepper.
  4. Get a clean break. The jalapenos should easily *pop* off of the plant, breaking cleanly at the end of the pepper’s stem. Try to avoid any twisting or tearing. A properly ripe pepper should come off without a fuss.

Another option is to use a sharp pair or scissors or pruning shears. See our recommended harvesting supplies here.

Harvesting Jalapenos
Jalapeno pepper attached
Picking Jalapeno Peppers
Pepper removed at the base of the stem

Why Are My Jalapenos Turning Red?

Why do jalapenos turn red? Are red jalapenos safe to eat? Many people are shocked when they see that their green jalapenos have started turning red late in the growing season.

This is completely natural! The only difference is that red jalapenos are fully ripe. Common jalapeno peppers will all eventually turn red if they are allowed to fully ripen. This occurs during the final jalapeno plant stages.

If you want your peppers to be red rather than green, you can simply leave them on your plant for longer. However, if there is a chance of frost approaching, you’ll have to harvest your jalapenos to avoid damage to the peppers.

Red Jalapeno Pepper Corking
Red jalapeno (fully ripe).

Are Jalapenos Hotter When They Turn Red?

One of the most common questions for jalapeno growers is, “Are red jalapenos hotter than green?” They appear to be more spicy thanks to the bright red color, but are they hotter?

Simply put, jalapenos may be slightly more spicy when they mature to a red color. All hot peppers continue to produce capsaicin as they age, and red jalapenos are more mature than green.

The reason that older peppers are usually hotter is that capsaicin, the compound responsible for spiciness, continues to form in peppers all season long. So, as the peppers grow and mature, more and more capsaicin is being produced inside.

There are other factors that determine how much heat is produced, but time is certainly a big one.

Will Jalapenos Turn Red Off The Plant?

If your jalapenos were picked when green, you may wonder if they will still turn red over time. The answer depends on whether the peppers had begun the final stage of ripening while still on the plant.

If the pepper was beginning to turn red when you picked it, then the pepper will continue to ripen to red off the plant. However, if you picked an under-ripe pepper with a light green color, it will almost certainly not turn red, no matter how long you wait.

If you want red jalapenos, allow the peppers to ripen on the plant. As long as there is no risk of frost, the peppers will continue to mature until the end of the growing season.

Tip: Place your jalapenos in a brown paper bag and close it. This is a method for speeding up the ripening process for most fruits and vegetables.

What To Do With Jalapenos After Picking

Now that you have your bountiful jalapeno harvest, it is time to use them! We have a lot of resources for storing and using jalapeno peppers on Pepper Geek.

Here are our favorite methods for storing peppers:

In addition to storing your peppers, you should consider saving the pepper seeds for planting next season! This is a super easy way to save money on seeds for the next growing season. But make sure you do it right!

Check out our guide to saving pepper seeds here.

How Do You Get Rid Of Jalapeno Plants?

Once the season has drawn to a close, and you have harvested all your jalapenos, it is time to get rid of your plant.

Or is it?

If you prefer to buy new plants each year, it is easiest to just toss your plant into the woods or compost pile, soil and all. A pepper plant is entirely organic and biodegradable. The decaying vegetation will provide nutrients to the forest, and will eventually become soil.

It is also possible to keep your jalapeño plant over the winter (overwintering). This involves heavy pruning and then keeping the plants alive for a few months indoors.

Without a grow light and an ideal location (to avoid bringing insects and pests into your home), overwintering can be a challenge. As a result, most people prefer to simply toss out the plant and start over next season.

Learn about harvesting other pepper varieties in our article here. Growing bell peppers? Learn when to pick bell peppers here.

I hope this article helped you learn the ins and outs of harvesting jalapenos. While it can be difficult, with our simple guidelines you’ll be picking your jalapeno peppers with confidence every year!

Calvin Thumbnail


One of the original Pepper Geeks! When Calvin isn’t gardening or learning more about peppers and botany, he might be traveling new places or playing some music.

Randy Michael

Tuesday 24th of May 2022

Calvin - please sign me up for your newsletter. Thanks, Randy

Donna Falco

Monday 28th of September 2020

Thanks so much for this informative article!! A back injury caused my pepper plants to fend for themselves all summer. It was a struggle, but I went out and picked today. These amazing, big as my hand, profuse peppers completely filled my grocery sack! But I was so disappointed to see the “corking” as you called it, thinking perhaps they’d be tough and overripe. I’m delighted that they are just fine!! They’re HUGE. I hope to stuff a few and pickle the rest, and will be checking out your recipes.


Monday 28th of September 2020

That sounds great - glad we could clear up the corking issue and we hope they are delicious!

Karen Sawyer

Monday 21st of September 2020

Aloha. I live in Hawaii so obviously it doesn’t get cold so will my pepper plant continue to produce?


Thursday 24th of September 2020

Aloha Karen,

As long as you give the plants everything they need (fertilizer, water, sunlight, etc.), they will continue to produce peppers year round.

You may also want to consider pruning the plants about once a year and potentially flushing out nutrients from the soil on occasion.

Best of luck! -Calvin


Monday 7th of September 2020

Will my hydroponic peppers be done at the same stages as soil grown?


Wednesday 9th of September 2020

Hey Matthew,

We have limited experience with hydro growing. However, we have seen other growers yield faster results using hydroponic growing systems. We did grow some peppers in an Aerogarden and the plant produced fruits relatively quickly (~3 months).

Let us know your results if you end up doing both!



Monday 17th of August 2020

Hi Calvin! What size pot is best to grow a healthy Jalapeno plant? Would 2 plants grow well in a 25 Gallon pot or better to grow them solo?


Tuesday 18th of August 2020

Hi Sanjay,

We recommend using a pot between 3-5 gallons for optimal harvests. The bigger the pot the more room for the plants to maximize yield!

Here is an article we have about container sizes.

Best! -Calvin