Growing habaneros is incredibly rewarding. There is nothing like planting a seed that will soon become dozens (or even hundreds) of ripe, delicious habanero peppers.
For the first few growing seasons, it can be tricky to know when to pick habanero peppers. Thankfully, there are a few easy tell-tale signs that your habaneros are ready for harvest.
When to Pick Habaneros
Just like any chili pepper variety, habaneros change their color when they are fully ripe. Unripe habaneros are green, while fully mature pods will be orange, red, or another color.
Another easy way to know when to pick habaneros if the age of your plant. Habanero peppers will typically ripen between 90-120 days after transplanting outdoors. However, timing can vary based on pepper plant care and climate.
Signs of ripeness:
- Habaneros change color when fully ripe
- Habaneros take 90-120 days to ripen after transplanting
- Fruits stop growing larger
For habaneros, I always try to wait for the peppers to fully ripen before picking. This doesn’t mean you have to, as green habaneros are edible and will still have plenty of heat.
One common complaint we see from newer growers is that their habaneros are taking forever to change color. The truth is, habaneros can take 3-4+ weeks to change from green to their final color. This can seem like an eternity when you are checking your plants daily, so be patient!
How to Pick Habaneros
When it comes to harvesting method, I like to keep it simple and just use my hands. Habaneros don’t hold on too tightly to the plant which makes for easy picking.
You could also use a pair of clean scissors or pruning shears to snip the stem of each habanero. This will potentially cause less damage to the plant as you harvest.
Make sure you have a harvesting basket or something to carry your harvest, as the fruits quickly pile up. I’ve been caught too many times in the garden trying to hand-carry dozens of ripe peppers.
Will Green Habaneros Ripen Off The Plant?
One common question we get is whether you can pick habaneros when they are still green. Towards the end of the growing season, your plants may still have unripe habaneros leftover.
The short answer is that habaneros can be picked while still green, but they may or may not change color off the plant. Green pods will only ripen to their mature color if the ripening process had already begun before picking.
However, don’t be discouraged! For one, unripe habaneros are still edible and delicious. Also, I have seen fully green peppers turn fully orange off the plant, so be patient.
The most important factor for faster ripening is temperature. Keep your green habaneros warm after picking, between 70-80°F for the quickest ripening.
If your green peppers have not begin to turn color after 3-4 days at room temperature, they will unlikely ripen. Use them up or preserve them for later use.
Will Habanero Plants Keep Producing?
Another question we get about growing habaneros is whether the plants can continue producing peppers after harvesting. Have the plants reached the end of their productive life?
Habanero plants are perennial, meaning they will continue to produce for years if kept in ideal growing conditions. Even in a single season, habanero plants will keep producing new peppers until the temperatures drop below 55°F.
In fact, if you live in a tropical climate, you can keep your habanero plants alive and producing for many, many years. Even if you do live in a climate with cold winters, your habaneros can easily be overwintered and kept alive for many years.
What To Do With Habaneros
If you’re anything like us, each season ends with an overwhelming bounty of hot peppers. So what can you do with fresh habaneros?
Habaneros are some of my personal favorite peppers for making hot sauce. The floral, fruity aroma is a perfect base for making a variety of flavorful homemade hot sauces.
Some ideas for using habaneros:
Find more ideas on what to do with your habaneros here.
Saving Seeds From Habaneros
If you want to keep growing your plants each year, it is easy to save the seeds from freshly picked habaneros. It is important to do it quickly once the peppers are harvested.
Seed saving tips:
- Choose ripe peppers. Only harvest seeds from fully-ripened habanero peppers. This ensures the seeds within are fully developed and will more likely germinate.
- Harvest seeds promptly. Once picked, harvest the seeds quickly to prevent the seeds from germinating within the peppers. Once a seed begins germinating, it cannot be stored for growing later.
- Dry seeds thoroughly. Always allow your seeds to dehydrate for at least 5 days at room temperature. If it is humid, it may take longer to reach an adequate dryness.
- Store with desiccant. Desiccant removes moisture from your seed container – use a food-grade desiccant packet to ensure the seeds stay dry during storage.
Tip: Always wear nitrile gloves when harvesting seeds from spicy peppers!
For more tips on saving pepper seeds, read our article on it here.
What about cross pollination? Different pepper varieties can easily cross pollinate in your garden. This means that your saved seeds may be a first generation hybrid between two different varieties, leading to a much different pepper plant. There is always some risk of this when growing multiple types of peppers in the same vicinity, but only when saving seeds! Learn more about cross breeding here.
Growing habaneros is a rewarding hobby that can easily become a lifelong passion. Each year, I encourage growers to experiment with their harvests and find what they enjoy most. Keep on growing!