Banana peppers are great for adding to salads, sandwiches, and any dish that needs a little extra flavor. For a lot of people, picking the perfect pepper can be an overwhelming experience. But there are some questions that arise:
- When should I pick them?
- How do I store these things?
- What color should they be when I buy them?
These are all really important questions to ask yourself before picking your next batch of banana peppers.
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When to Pick Banana Peppers
Banana peppers look like bananas when they are mature, hence the name.
There are two main varieties of banana peppers:
- Hot banana peppers
- Sweet banana peppers
The two grow very differently so we’ll want to know which type you’re growing before deciding if it’s ready to pick.
There are a few main things to keep in mind when determining if it’s time to pick your banana peppers.
1. When They Were Planted / Days to Harvest
Banana peppers are generally ready to pick around the 70-85 day mark from when they were planted.
If you started them indoors before transplanting them outside, you’ll want to include that time in there.
But this time frame comes with a lot of caveats and your peppers may take more or less time. Here was my schedule of peppers this year:
- Started seeds: 3/6/21
- Planted outside: 5/13/21
- Harvested first peppers: 6/10/21
That’s 96 days before I got my first pepper. Why did it take so much longer?
Because it’s nature and it’s not a machine 🙂
But in all seriousness, I think the peppers went through a little shock after being transplanted outside. Even though I hardened them off, I think the clay soil took them by surprise and they needed some time to adjust.
Plus, our weather was a little crazy so I wasn’t able to get them outside around out last frost date (which was supposed to be April 12th), but we had really cold nights up until I eventually planted them outside.
2. Pepper Color
Both varieties of banana peppers will turn a yellow color when they are ripe and ready to be picked.
Before they are ripe, they are often a pale green color, and they slowly turn yellow when they are ready.
- Hot banana peppers: Yellow when ripe; but get hotter the longer you wait
- Sweet banana peppers: Yellow when ripe
If you wait longer and continue to let them ripen on the plant, banana peppers will eventually turn a red color. Banana peppers are one of the peppers you harvest a little earlier than when it’s fully ripe. At the yellow stage, the pepper is crunchy and what we’re used to when we think of a banana pepper.
When a banana pepper turns red, the skin is softer and has less of a snap to it when you bite into the pepper. For sweet peppers, it also gets a bit sweeter than a yellow banana pepper.
For hot banana peppers, the longer you leave it on the plant after this yellow stage, the more hot it will get. So if you’re into more mild banana peppers, go ahead and harvest them when yellow.
Since you have your own plant, try experimenting and pick some while they are yellow, but leave a few on the plant to get to that red stage and see if you like them better.
3. Pepper Size
The size of your peppers is an easy way to tell if they are ready, or at least full grown.
- Hot banana peppers: 6-8 inches long
- Sweet banana peppers: 4-6 inches long
Banana peppers might start to turn yellow and look ripe when they are shorter. But don’t be fooled, they might not be quite ready yet.
This happened to me the first time I grew banana peppers. The peppers all looked ready to be harvested but they were only 3-4 inches long. I decided to give them some more time and they almost doubled in size – I’m glad I waited! 🙂
When peppers are growing on the plant, you can touch them and feel how much the fruit “gives” when you gently squeeze it.
Both the sweet and hot banana peppers will soften just a bit when they are ready to be picked.
Up until that point, the two will hardly give when you push on them a bit.
When to Harvest Banana Peppers (Time of Day)
The ideal time of the day to pick your banana peppers is in the morning before the heat of the sun gets to them. Try and get them after the morning dew is dried up, but before it’s too hot outside. If the plant is wet when you are harvesting, you are more likely to spread pathogens and impact the future growth of the plant.
There are some biological processes that happen throughout the day, so picking them before this happens will help the fruit keep longer in your kitchen and help the plant recover best after you coming along to steal its fruit 🙂
How to Harvest Banana Peppers
Harvesting your banana peppers is pretty straightforward (if you left enough space between your banana pepper plants for easy harvesting!). You can either pull it off the plant or use pruning shears.
If pulling it off, hold the plant in one hand, and pull the pepper stem off with the other hand.
If using scissors or pruning shears, cut the pepper on its stem, being careful not to cut other branches or leaves in the process.
Here is where you should be aiming to make your cut:
How to Store Banana Peppers
Banana peppers will generally stay good for about a week after being harvested.
If you won’t be able to use them within that time, here are some options for preserving them and enjoying them later.
- In the Refrigerator
Now You’re a Pro at Harvesting Banana Peppers!
Figuring out when to pick your banana peppers can be confusing if you’ve never done it before. But it’s all about the size and the color of the peppers.
If you like hotter banana peppers, pick them when they’re turning red or are fully red.
If you like sweeter banana peppers, pick them when they are more yellow in color.