Harvesting Jalapenos – When & How To Pick

Harvesting Jalapenos

If you are new to growing jalapenos, you will probably need some help knowing when to pick your peppers. 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 yourself. It is very easy, and with these guidelines and questions answered, you will be confident that you are doing things correctly!

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When To Harvest Jalapenos

When growing jalapenos, there are several easy-to-spot signs that a pepper is ready for harvest. In general, the peppers will be 3-5 inches in length, will be very firm to the touch, and will 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 jalapeno peppers give is in their color. During the growing season, you will watch your peppers turn from light green, to darker green, to a brownish green and finally to bright red. Jalapenos are technically ripe before they turn red, but allowing them to ripen to red will increase both heat and sweetness in the peppers.

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
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 on our post here.

Best Method For Picking Jalapenos

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, making a 180 degree turn from the plant 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 will come off without a fuss.
Harvesting Jalapenos
Jalapeno pepper attached
Picking Jalapeno Peppers
Pepper removed at the base of the stem

Green vs Red Jalapenos

Why are my jalapenos turning 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 have had more time to ripen. Common jalapeno peppers will all eventually turn red if they are allowed to fully ripen. 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.

Jalapeno Peppers

Are Jalapenos Hotter When They Turn Red?

One of the most common questions for jalapeno growers is, “Are red jalapenos hotter than green?” As a general rule of thumb when growing jalapenos, older peppers are hotter than younger peppers. Since red jalapenos are simply more mature peppers than green jalapenos, it is safe to assume that red jalapenos will have more heat.

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.

If you want red jalapenos, the best way to get them is to simply leave the peppers on the plant longer. As long as there is no risk of frost, the peppers will continue to mature off the plant 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 PepperGeek. 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.

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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, soil and all. A pepper plant is entirely organic and biodegradable. The decaying vegetation will provide nutrients to the forest, and will eventually become dirt.

It is also possible to keep your jalapeno 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.

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


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Calvin

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

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