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 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!
In This Article
- 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 (more mature) color.
The color will depend on the pepper’s age, but many people prefer to pick jalapenos before they turn red.
Jalapeño 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.
Jalapeños 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 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, great for pickling.
Another clear sign that a pepper is maturing is the pepper’s size. Jalapeños 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!
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.
- 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. 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.
- 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.
Why Are My Jalapeños 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 jalapeños are fully ripe. Common jalapeno peppers will all eventually turn red if they are allowed to fully 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?
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, jalapeños 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 fresh jalapeño peppers on Pepper Geek.
Here are our favorite methods for storing peppers:
- Quick-pickling jalapenos
- Dehydrating jalapeños
- Freezing jalapenos
- Give Them To Friends & Family
- Eat Them Fresh!
- More ways to store jalapenos >
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 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 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.
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!