Harvesting your garden bounties is always exciting. Months of anticipation finally pay off, but timing is important! In this article, I’ll share when to pick banana peppers and how to do it properly.
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Types Of Banana Peppers
First, you should determine what type of banana peppers you have grown. Some are spicy, while others are sweet without any heat. This matters because your goals may differ based on heat level.
Hot Banana Peppers. Spicy banana peppers will get spicier as they age on the plant. For this reason, you may want to wait for the peppers to fully mature to a red color before picking. The only drawback is that the peppers may become less firm as they ripen.
Sweet Banana Peppers. Sweet banana peppers are more typically used for pickling or eating fresh. They are usually picked when they are immature and have a light-yellow color. You can still allow them to ripen to red, but they will lose some of their crispness and become slightly sweeter.
When To Pick Banana Peppers
Picking banana peppers at the right time can be tricky. This is because they are often picked before they are fully ripe.
Traditionally, banana peppers are ready to be picked when they have a pale yellow color and are mature in size (4-5″ long). If banana peppers are left on the plant longer, they will continue to change color to orange and finally red.
Don’t overthink it! If your peppers look and feel ready, then pick them. The plant will continue to produce more peppers as the season goes on, and harvesting promptly will encourage the plant to do so.
Banana peppers can be eaten at any stage of growth, so as long as you’re ready to eat them, they can be picked. We encourage you to harvest your banana peppers at various levels of ripeness to test what you like best.
Do Banana Peppers Turn Red?
If you grow lots of different pepper varieties, you probably know that they all change color when fully ripe. This is also true of banana peppers, but you will likely pick yours before they fully transform.
To put it simply, banana peppers will eventually turn red if allowed to fully ripen. This can even happen after the peppers have been picked. It is not unusual to see a pepper change color on the kitchen table over the course of a week or so.
Learn more about harvesting different pepper varieties here.
Why Pick Banana Peppers Before They Are Ripe?
Banana peppers are not the only variety that is typically harvested early. Many pepper varieties are traditionally picked before they change colors, including jalapeños, green bell peppers, serranos, shishitos and many others.
So why pick all of these peppers early? There are two main reasons.
One reason is to reduce the time it takes to harvest your food. This is the primary reason peppers are picked unripe from a commercial perspective. Fully ripened peppers can take an additional 2-4 weeks to be ready for harvesting.
Another reason is the texture. Under-ripe peppers usually have a more crisp, crunchy texture than those that are fully ripe. Fully-ripe banana peppers have a softer skin and a sweeter flavor.
Tip: If you are planning to save seeds from your banana peppers, always use fully-ripened (red) peppers to ensure the seeds are mature.
How To Pick Banana Peppers
You should now feel confident in when to pick your banana peppers. The only thing that is left is to actually harvest them! It may seem simple (and it is), but I’d like to share a few words of advice for picking banana peppers.
If harvesting by hand, we find that using an upwards motion works best. Banana peppers often have thick stems, so they can be stubborn to come off of the plants. Hold the pepper’s stem with one hand and the plant’s branch with the other, pulling the pepper up and away for a clean break.
The other option is to use scissors or pruning shears. This makes it much easier on your plants, as there is no risk of pulling off branches while harvesting your pods. Make a clean snip anywhere along the pepper’s stem, careful not to accidentally snip any branches or leaves.
In any case, the goal is simple: Remove the peppers from the plant. Any way you achieve this is the correct way, so don’t overthink it :).
Will Banana Peppers Keep Producing?
After harvesting an entire plant, you may wonder if it will continue to produce more peppers. The answer will ultimately depend on how many warm months are left in your climate.
In short, banana peppers will continue to produce more peppers as ripe ones are harvested. In fact, harvesting peppers promptly will encourage the plants to begin producing new ones!
This is the main reason that we recommend checking on your plants every day during the mid-late summer and picking any that are ripe. The plant will ‘know’ that a pepper has been removed and will re-direct energy towards making more.
I hope this article helps you feel confident about when to pick banana peppers in your garden. We love picking fresh peppers and using them in the kitchen or preserving them for later. Enjoy!