When To Harvest Jalapeños (For Best Flavor & Heat)

Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Pepper Geek takes part in various affiliate programs. This means that purchases through our links may result in a commission for us.

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

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

Green jalapeno on plant

Skip ahead:


Video:


When To Harvest Jalapeños

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 (ripe) color.

The color will depend on the pepper’s age and stage of ripeness, but many people prefer to pick jalapeños before they turn red.

Jalapeño stages of ripeness

The most obvious signal that a jalapeño pepper is ripe is its 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.

Jalapeno plant with ripening fruits
Jalapeño pepper ripening to red on plant.

Jalapeños are traditionally picked before they turn red, but red peppers are sweeter than green ones. Nothing like a red jalapeño pepper diced up and added to some fresh salsa.

However, some gardeners prefer to pick jalapeños early. Green jalapeños are more crisp and crunchy, making them better for pickling.

Size is another clear sign that a pepper is reaching maturity. Jalapeños will grow from a tiny pea-sized bud to around 3-5 inches long when mature. The length will depend on the jalapeño variety, as well as the 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 jalapeños is called corking. These are small, white lines that can develop on a pepper’s skin. This is completely safe to eat, and is actually a desirable characteristic to some Pepper Geeks!

Jalapeno corking
Healthy corking on Jalapeno

When are my jalapeños ready?

When can I pick my jalapeños? Is it too early? To put it simply, once a jalapeño pepper has reached full size and a mature coloration (deep green or bright 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 overall yields. Learn more about maximizing yields in our article here.

Large harvest of jalapeno peppers
Large harvest of jalapeño peppers.

How To Pick Jalapeño 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 jalapeño 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. Jalapeños 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 straight upwards to pick it.
  4. Get a clean break. The jalapeños 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
Jalapeño pepper on plant.
Picking Jalapeno Peppers
Pepper removed at the base of the stem.

Why Are My Jalapeños Turning Red?

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

This is completely natural! Red jalapeños are the fully ripe version of the peppers. Jalapeño peppers will eventually turn red, yellow, or orange (depending on the variety) if allowed to ripen. This occurs during the final jalapeño 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 jalapeños to avoid damage to the peppers.

Red Jalapeno Pepper Corking
Red jalapeno (fully ripe).

Are jalapeños hotter when they turn red?

Most hot pepper growers want the hottest possible fruits. So, are green or red jalapeños hotter?

Simply put, jalapeños may be slightly more spicy when they mature to a red color. All hot peppers continue to produce capsaicin as they age, typically peaking right when a pepper reaches full ripeness.

The reason that older peppers are usually hotter is that capsaicin, the compound responsible for spiciness, continues to form in peppers all season long. However, the capsaicin levels can actually drop shortly after the peppers ripen, so be sure to harvest them promptly for the most heat!

Learn more about how to grow spicier peppers here.

Will jalapeños turn red off the plant?

If your jalapeños 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 jalapeños in a brown paper bag and place it in a warm location. This is a method for speeding up the ripening process for most fruits and vegetables.


What To Do With Jalapeños After Picking

Now that you have your bountiful jalapeño harvest, it is time to use them! Thankfully, we have a lot of resources for storing and using fresh jalapeño peppers.

Here are our favorite methods for storing peppers:

pickled jalapeño peppers

In addition to storing your peppers, you may want to 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!


How Do You Get Rid Of Jalapeño Plants?

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

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. 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 plants indoors 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 from seed 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 about harvesting jalapeños. While it can be tricky at first, with our simple guidelines you’ll be picking your jalapeño peppers with confidence every year!

Calvin Thumbnail

Calvin

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.

Similar Posts

33 Comments

  1. This is my first year growing peppers. I have mainly jalapeños but also some habaneros and a Carolina Reaper. My plants were in the ground at the beginning of April. It is now September and the few peppers I have are still green. I live in a mild climate, zone 9b. Is there anything I can do reduce the time for harvest? I

    1. Focus on the basics – adequate light (at least 6-8 hours a day), avoid overbearing heat in mid-summer, fertile soil without too much nitrogen, and some flowers as companion plants to bring in populations of various insects. Also, variety selection can also help – some jalapeño types have been bred to produce their crops in a shorter period of time. However in 9B, you should have plenty of time to get any pepper variety to produce ripe fruits!

  2. I was wondering frost is tonight do I leave the peppers on the plant or do I harvest them and bring them in. If I want them to ripen more do I leave them on the vine or pick them

  3. I have read NOT to hand yank peppers off the plant like this and when I tried this once with well ripen jalapeños, it wanted to rip some flesh parts from the vine. Why do you recommend this? I use small garden shears as other’s suggest.

    1. @WilliamM, you are not pulling it off properly. You simply grab the pepper and bend the stem up and it will break off very easily without damaging the rest of the plant

  4. In my experience, some Jalapeno varieties ripen to red readily, but some just develop corking instead, and don’t ever seem to turn red. And a few turn another color like orange.

  5. Hello, what are the “other” factors that determine how hot peppers will be? Thanks

  6. So my jalapeños are growing decently but the coloring seems off. They have stayed a light green and a few are already starting to turn red. The peppers never got to the dark green you usually see. Is this a cross pollination or nutrient deficiency?

    1. Sometimes a few peppers will form early and end up ripening too soon. This could be the case for your pods. As the plant grows larger, the fruits should form properly and ripen as normal

  7. We’re growing a happy jalapeno plant planted on May 10. It’s now about 18 tall with over a dozen peppers in various stages of growth. But we have one pepper that is less than 1 inch long but crimson red! Does that mean that this tiny pepper is ripe already or should we just let it grow? I’ve noticed another small pepper starting to turn red also.

    1. Yep, it is ripe! A ripe pod will not get any bigger. Sometimes, an early pepper will be sort of a runt, but yep, I’d pick it and enjoy your tiny first harvest 😆

  8. 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.

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

    1. 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

    1. 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!

      -Calvin

  10. 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?

  11. I noticed that my plant, in addition to various green jalapenos always has several bright red smaller fruit. The red ones were the first to develop and are about one inch in length. Are those usual and should they be harvested as well?

  12. Once a jalapeno starts to turn red, will it grow in size? If I leave the red ones on the plant will they get bigger?

  13. Calvin,
    I’m new to gardening and absolutely loved your article. It told me everything I need to know about Jalapenos from beginning to end!
    Thanks a bunch!!! 😉
    Patty

      1. Great article!! How long will a picked, dark green with the white lines jalapeño keep? So I put them in the fridge? I harvested a few but need to wait for others to get a little bigger before I make jalapeño poppers. How long before they ruin?

        1. Hi Grace,

          We find that freshly picked jalapeños last around 1 week in the fridge before they start to soften and eventually mold. You can freeze them, though that will soften them a bit as well when they are thawed.

          Best,
          -Calvin

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *