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!
- When to harvest
- How to pick jalapeños
- Green vs red jalapeños
- What to do with fresh jalapeños
- Getting rid of jalapeño plants
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.
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!
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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:
- Quick-pickling jalapeños
- Dehydrating jalapeños
- Freezing jalapeños
- Give Them To Friends & Family
- Eat Them Fresh!
- More ways to store jalapenos >
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.
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!