When To Pick Peppers – Harvesting Your Peppers

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Peppers come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. It may be difficult to determine exactly when they’re ready to be plucked. How can you tell when peppers are ripe and ready to pick? Here, we’ll discuss everything we know about harvesting peppers so you can harvest with confidence!

Yellow Naga Ghost Pepper
Ripe Yellow Naga Pepper.

In This Article:


When Are Peppers Ripe?

Pepper varieties ripen at different rates. Hot and spicy peppers are typically slower to ripen, while sweet peppers are quicker. If you have a seed packet, check the back of the packaging to get an idea of maturation time.

Peppers Change Color

The best way to tell when peppers are ready to pick is to observe changes in color. Almost all pepper varieties will go through a color change during the ripening process. For example, bell peppers change from green to a deep red when fully ripened. When you buy red bell peppers, they are simply ripened green peppers!

It can be tempting to pick your peppers before they change color, and this is okay to do. Peppers are edible at any stage of growth, but the flavor will be different. Peppers picked early will usually have less sweetness and more bitterness.

We prefer to allow our peppers to reach full maturity before harvesting. If you just can’t wait, it is okay to pick a few, but leave some so that you can decide which you prefer. As a bonus, spicy varieties are usually at their hottest when they are just turning color.

Time Since Planting

Under ideal conditions, most pepper varieties can begin producing ripe & ready peppers after 90-150+ days. If you are growing any of the superhot varieties, like the ghost pepper or any habaneros, they will take longer. Bell peppers and jalapenos are typically ready for harvesting on the lower end of that scale.

If you started your seeds indoors, your plants will produce more peppers, but may also take slightly longer to mature. This is because the first few months are dedicated to leafy growth. Only after the plants mature in size will they begin to set fruit.

If you see fruits that appear to be ready, consider when they were planted. If it seems too early to harvest, it probably is. Don’t rush your peppers, they will ripen in their own time!

Timing is especially important to keep in mind as the growing season draws to a close. You don’t want to let your pepper plants stay overnight if there is a potential frost. Be sure to harvest any final peppers before this occurs (usually around October in the Northeast US – check your area).

Pepper Corking

Corking is a natural marking that can appear on many pepper varieties. It occurs when a pepper’s skin grows slower than the flesh, causing tiny tears in the skin. The white lines appear when the skin heals over the wounds.

Jalapeno corking
Healthy jalapeno corking.

Corking is usually a desirable characteristic to pepper geeks. It signifies that there has been healthy growth, and is a sign of a ripening pepper. If your peppers have corking, it is likely that they are coming close to ripeness.

When To Pick Peppers (Harvesting By Variety)

To make harvesting peppers easier, we have put together some examples of the most common peppers. If you are growing a different variety, just follow the basic principles of harvesting peppers:

  • Changing color
  • Growth stops
  • Softening flesh
  • Easily picked from stem
  • Corking (on some varieties)

Following these guidelines will help you feel confident when picking any pepper variety.

Note: If you plan to save your pepper seeds, you definitely want to wait for the peppers to fully mature and change color. Another benefit of allowing your pods to ripen, the seeds become viable for next year!

Here are some more details on when to harvest for the most popular pepper varieties.

When To Pick Bell Peppers

Bell peppers are one of the most commonly grown pepper varieties, and often the most difficult to know when to harvest. This is because many people prefer to eat bell peppers when they are green (before changing colors).

The fact is, green bell peppers are not fully ripened. You are welcome to pick them early, but waiting a few more weeks will result in delicious sweet red bell peppers. There are also other color varieties (orange, yellow, purple).

The bottom line: Pick bell peppers when they stop growing larger, or ideally, wait for them to turn red! We prefer the vibrant color and sweet flavor of a red bell pepper. They are also full of vitamin A (beta carotene)!

When To Pick Jalapeños

Jalapeños are some of our favorite peppers to grow. We grow them every year, and plan to for the rest of our days, so we have lots of experience harvesting jalapeños!

Traditionally, jalapeños are picked when they are still green. This gives them the savory, smoky, and punchy flavor we all know and love. Wait for the peppers to reach a full size, and ideally wait 1-2 weeks after that before plucking.

You can also wait for jalapeños to ripen before picking for a sweet flavor. As jalapeños ripen, they change from green, to almost black, and finally to bright red. The peppers also become slightly softer and much sweeter in the process. Great for a colorful take on jalapeño poppers!

The bottom line: Wait for your jalapenos to reach a mature size and stop growing. They can be picked when green, but fully ripened jalapeños turn a deep red. Red jalapeños have a sweeter flavor that not everyone loves.

When To Pick Habaneros

Harvesting habaneros is easy. The common habanero pepper will turn orange or red when ripe. Then, and only then, should you harvest your habaneros. The flavor and aroma improves dramatically in fully ripe, orange habaneros.

Habaneros are one of the more subtle pepper varieties when it comes to color change. Habaneros start off green, turning to pale or bright orange when ready to pick. They can be picked while green, but they will lack some flavor and heat.

KSLS x CGN 21500 habanero plant with peppers
Habanero peppers ripening on plant.

The floral smell of a fully ripened habanero cannot be beat. Some habanero varieties change to other colors, such as red, mustard orange, deep brown or even light purple! If you want to learn more about habaneros (some of our favorite spicy peppers) read here.

Avoid picking habaneros too early. Some varieties can be prone to sun scald, which can be mistaken for a ripening pepper pod. If it seems too early to be ripe, leave the peppers alone.

Red habanero pepper on plant
Ripe red and unripe green habaneros on plant.

The bottom line: Wait for habaneros to turn bright orange. They take a long time to fully mature, so be patient! Only harvest early if there is a threat of frost in the early fall. After harvesting, be sure to check out our article on what to do with habanero peppers.

When To Pick Cayenne Peppers

Cayenne peppers are widely used in spicy dishes. From cayenne pepper powder to Frank’s RedHot sauce, cayenne has made a name for itself. There are many varieties of cayenne pepper, but most have the same characteristics: Long, skinny, red and spicy.

The most common cayenne peppers will ripen to a bright, vibrant red color. This is the best indicator that it is time to pick cayenne peppers. They may also show some corking marks, but usually not. They can be picked before turning red, but again, they will lack sweetness and heat.

Cayenne pepper plant in pot with red peppers
Cayenne pepper plant with pods turning red.

If you’re growing cayenne peppers, you’ll often find that some peppers ripen before others. Be sure to pick any ripe peppers when they are ready. This ensures that your plants focus energy on ripening the other peppers.

The bottom line: Wait for the cayenne peppers to fully turn red, and then harvest immediately! They will continue to ripen but will often fall off the plant if left unpicked.

How To Pick Peppers

When it comes to pepper harvesting technique, you have a couple options. Many varieties will happily come loose when they are ripe, but others may require some extra effort.

For example, we harvest jalapeno peppers by hand, pulling each pepper in and upwards motion. The peppers usually ‘pop’ off of the plant with ease when they are properly ripe.

Green jalapeno on plant
Hand-picking jalapeño pepper.
  • Bell peppers can be a bit more stubborn when harvested. Due to the large stem on each bell pepper, we prefer using a sharp pair of scissors to slice the pepper from the plant. Make sure you get a clean cut to avoid damaging the plant. The piece left on the plant will usually die and fall off a few weeks later.
  • Habanero peppers are easily picked by hand. Use one hand to hold the plant’s stem in place, and gently pull the pepper’s stem up and away from the plant.
  • Cayenne peppers can be harvested by hand, as they are easy to pick when ripe. These peppers are known to fall off of the plant fairly quickly after ripening, so be sure to keep watch!

Overall, when harvesting peppers, your goal is to remove the pepper and cause as little harm to the plant possible. Use scissors or pruning shears if you prefer, or go old fashioned and just use your hand. In any case, if the peppers are ripe and ready, harvesting will be much easier!

I hope this article helps you feel comfortable harvesting peppers at home. This is the most exciting time of year, so enjoy it! If you have questions, please feel free to leave them below.

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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.

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  1. I live in zones 9b-10a. I germinated, then planted in 3 gallon grow bags, about ten varieties of super hots including Chocolate Ghost, Wicked Ghost F1, Skunk, Standard Reaper, as well as Cayenne and Trinidad Scorpion. I regularly fertilized with Miracle-Gro regular until bloom, then switched to their Bloom Buster.
    The plants grew tall even though I topped them early on. Then, only one of the Wicked Ghost and Chocolate Ghost plants produced fruit even though all of the others bloomed. And they remained at that stage; blooms but not maturing to peppers. All receive at least 8 hours direct sunlight and the soil I used was compost+high quality potting soil.
    This is the second year this has happened! What could be the problem?

  2. Unfortunately, I grew about a half dozen varieties of peppers this year, and they generally hybridized with one another. All kinds of colors and shapes growing on the wrong plants, and no clue when they are ripe. I have a bright red pepper on one of my poblanos that I think crossed with a Carolina reaper, small purple peppers growing on a pepper labeled as “red superhot”, etc.

  3. This is my first time growing gypsy peppers, I don’t know when they are ripe these are sweet gypsy peppers.

  4. I have read you can dig up , or remove the bell peppers and shake loose the dirt, cut back the secondary growth and store it over winter in a cool dry place to gain a next season advantage in growth. Can all peppers be treated this way to hibernate a crop?

  5. Can green peppers that turned ren on bush an then got sun dried be eaten? When they on vacation an the plant died from no water. The peppers look good but got sun dried.

  6. Possibly a dumb question, but I can’t seem to find the answer anywhere. I have lots of habanero plants for the first time and I plan on making sauces with them. There are about 10 peppers that look fully ripe, should I be picking those, or leave them on until many more fully ripen?


    1. I usually pick ripe peppers as they come (you can get a bigger overall yield that way), or leave them on if you plan to process them all together. You can also freeze the ripened peppers until you’re ready to use them for sauce.

  7. I am in Toronto. I’ve been waiting for my bell peppers to turn red. They were planted in late May. I noticed some have turned a bit of red so I picked them. They are all rotten inside. Some of the peppers have root rot although we fertilize on a regular basis. What am I doing wrong?

  8. I for the first time purchased a “Sport” pepper. See sports showing up in different sizes in the past week. When do I these?

  9. Hi! I live in Central Florida and am brand new to growing peppers. I have a bird pepper plant that is loaded with green & purple peppers and I picked 1 orange one off the plant this afternoon. The peppers are very small but in spite of their size they are VERY HOT! I’m trying to determine what color they should be when they are fully ripe.

    1. Hm, most bird-type peppers will ripen through to a bright red color. Can’t be sure without knowing the exact variety, but many red peppers will turn orange before fully turning red. Hope you enjoy!

  10. I have an Armageddon pepper plant that has produced 20 plus peppers. Most have changed colour to a vibrant orange, however, many are quite a bit smaller than the full size (about golf ball size). Will the small peppers continue to grow even though they have changed colour?

    Thanks from Victoria BC Canada

    1. Hi David – no, once a pepper has ripened, it will not grow in size. Some peppers just grow smaller than others, it happens a lot with early peppers, but is very common in general.

  11. Sweet peppers I grew from seed of another pepper now we are losing sunshine will they still ripen with less sun on them first time growing them

  12. What do I need to do to The Hatch chili’s I’m growing they are only about an 1″ long and then they turn red. They are suppose to get to 5″ to 7″.
    Please Help.
    Thank You.

  13. My ghost pepper plant was producing nice big bright red peppers then all of a sudden I noticed this week the peppers that were green are now turning purple why? why is the plant producing red and then suddenly producing purple thank you

    1. Purpling can happen when the peppers are exposed to direct sunlight – it is a natural effect that usually is no harm – the peppers should still ripen to red.

  14. Hello!
    This was my first year gardening and none of my seedlings survived transplanting. 🙁 So I bought many different varieties of peppers from the nursery in June. Because of this, I have no idea how old they are. My habanero and cayenne peppers are not ripening… I started picking a few here and there for tasting and to encourage new growth but there are some that have been the same size on each plant for A MONTH and are still green. People keep telling me to be patient but I have also heard other Michigan gardeners say their hot peppers NEVER get ripe!!! Is there a guideline for how much longer this will take if they are not growing in size? Are there signs that it is becoming overripe without changing color? Are there things I can do to encourage ripening? I fertilize every week with organic tomato and veg and added bone meal to the soil about 3 weeks ago… My cayenne currently has about 20 peppers and my hananero has about 10 and I’m concerned production will stop if I don’t keep picking… HELP! 🙂
    P.S. I discovered your content about 2 weeks ago and can’t get enough. I’m immensely greatful to have you geeks as a resource and I want to thank you for the wealth of information and for already answering so many of my questions!!!

    1. Hi Jen – so ripening can take longer if your plants are in lower light conditions. However, they should change color and ripen fully eventually. We have some plants in pots that are in very limited lighting and have taken much longer to produce ripe peppers than those in full sun. Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do other than wait it out. Thankfully, peppers are edible at any stage, and many of them taste pretty good when still green, but there are benefits to the color change (nutrients, appealing color, etc.). If frost is near, you could try removing stems and branches that do not contain fully formed fruits to concentrate the plant’s energy on ripening the existing peppers. Hope this helps, and good luck!

      1. Thank you! That does help!! I had read a few places that peppers prefer morning sun since the afternoon sun is hotter and since I was having a ton of wilting and slow production, I moved them to east of my corn so they were shaded from the afternoon sun. But I’m going to move the cayenne and habanero so they get more sun and see if that helps. Thanks again!!!

  15. Any thoughts on serano peppers growing them the fist time. They seem fatter then the ones in the store. Picked a couple they weren’t hot yet. How will I know if they are ready?

    1. Love serranos – usually productive and delicious. They should be hot though – I usually wait for them to start turning dark/red before picking. Great sweet flavor and pretty spicy when mature (10-20K Scoville)

  16. Is there a particular time of day that is best to harvest your peppers? Tomatoes are best picked early in the morning. Is it the same with peppers? Thank you!

    1. It won’t make much difference, but morning is a great time, Allows any unintentional wounds to heal and dry quickly before the sun is intense and humidity rises.

  17. Most pepper varieties are sweeter and have more vitamins when they turn color, and usually the color of ripeness is some shade of red, occasionally orange and in special cases brown, yellow or white. Immature fruits are usually green, but can be purple or black.

    For a lot of pepper cultivars, immature fruits are bitter or “green” tasting, and their taste improves dramatically when ripe. But a few varieties — especially Jalapeno, Garden Salsa, bell peppers, and smaller sweet peppers like Anaheim — are optimized for tasting good while still green. This has the advantage of not having to wait for full ripeness and giving you a traditional green pepper taste. Others have interesting alternate flavors while green — for example, Ghost peppers are sour and citrusy (due to Vitamin C) and spicy from quite early on. But very small, young fruits have an inferior taste compared to larger green fruits in nearly every cultivar.

    There are also big variations in how long peppers keep on or off the bush once fully ripe. Some turn soft and start to rot within days, while others keep for much longer. Peppers also tend to continue to ripen once picked, and even continue to ripen when refrigerated.

  18. Thanks for an easy to follow pepper information! I am growing jalapeño, poblano, Tabasco, sweet yellow and delicious Garden Salsa peppers! I am thoroughly enjoying growing them!

  19. We live near San Francisco, CA and planted a bell pepper plant in early July. It now has three green peppers, one of which is about three inches long and the other two are about an inch long.
    Our nights are now getting just below 50 degrees and it sits outside in a pot. Should I bring the pot in at night? How long into the winter will the plant continue to grow?

    1. 50°F is the tipping point for peppers – growth will slow substantially and leaves may start dying and turning yellow. It will stay alive down to around 35, but won’t thrive unless nighttime temps remain above 65°F. You can keep it alive through the winter by keeping it away from frost, it will come back quickly in the spring when temps rise.

      1. Thanks for the info. The plant still seems to be doing okay but the peppers aren’t getting any bigger or turning color. Is it time to pick the peppers, green though they are, before they start to rot?

  20. I have a bunch of Tabasco peppers growing and need an idea of how long it takes to ripen from green to red. I know it’s 90+ days from germination but we had a brutal summer here in Phoenix and the months old plants are just now bursting with fruit. The reason I want to know the ripening time is cuz I might have to remove the plants to redo my irrigation. Thanks

    1. It varies based on the conditions for the plant. Temperature, overall plant health, etc can change the time it takes to ripen. The only thing you can do is wait for the peppers to begin changing on their own, no real way to force it.

  21. Hello : I grew two cayenne pepper plants (from seed) on my balcony. As of September 16 only 7 have ripened (and were picked) and there are about 15 peppers still remaining. They are a deep glossy green and about 2 to 3 1/2 inches long. They are not ripening. I live in southwestern ontario canada and tonight the temp is going down to 50 F. QUESTION: can I pick the peppers when they are green and how do I ripen them.

    1. The peppers will only ripen to red off the plant if they have begun to change color. If they are still green with no signs of red, I would leave them on the plant until they turn. A few nights of 50F is tolerable for peppers, or you can also bring the plant inside if it is going to get colder.

  22. We live in Texas and my wife and family would love for you all to check us out our Facebook page; Fire It Up Peppers

    This is our first year growing Super Hots and we would love to send you a bottle of our sauces to try once we get the labels and the DBA is complete.

  23. Thank you for a your insights! As a first time grower of pepper I am wondering about when to pick tabasco peppers. I am growing cayenne, jalapeno and tabasco (along with some bells [gypsy and various colors]). Looking forward to using them at the end of the season!

    1. Though we have yet to grow tabasco peppers, I believe that they turn red when ripe. Check your seed source (packet, website) to make sure it is the standard variety that changes to red when ripe.

      Good luck!

  24. Thanks for all this information. First time grower and when my jalapeno plants developed black at the joints I thought something was wrong with them. Now I know they are doing just fine and looking forward to picking my first pepper in a few weeks. Lots of great information for pepper lovers. I will be coming back to you as a reliable resource. Many thanks.

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