When to Pick Bell Peppers (Red, Green, Yellow, and Purple)

when to pick bell peppers

The bell pepper is a vegetable that has been around for centuries. In fact, it was being grown in Peru in the 1500s. Today the bell pepper is found on almost every grocery store shelf and in many home gardens, in a few different colors and flavors.

The most popular varieties are sweet bells which include ‘Big Bertha’ (red), ‘Golden Bells’ (yellow), ‘Sweet Chocolate'(brownish-purple) and ‘Rocotillo'(bright orange).

The bell pepper plant is a common one in-home gardens as they’re pretty easy to grow and produce a great yield.

Green peppers are less ripe than other colored peppers

It’s true. A green pepper is simply just a pepper that hasn’t been allowed to fully mature and become a red or yellow sweet pepper. While you can buy different varieties of peppers, these were just bred to taste better as a different color pepper. Any bell pepper seed will produce a green pepper.

Stages of Ripeness for Bell Peppers

  1. Green Peppers
  2. Yellow Peppers
  3. Orange Peppers
  4. Red Peppers
  5. Black Peppers
bell pepper varieties

When to Pick Bell Peppers

Now that you know the stages of ripeness, let’s talk about how to pick peppers at each stage.

In general, you can look for what’s known as “corking” to determine if a pepper is ready. Corking is when peppers develop thin, white striping or dots on the skin – this usually means they are ready to pick.

When to Pick Green Bell Peppers

Green bell peppers are one of the more common varieties you’d find on the market. They’re often the cheapest varieties because they take the shortest amount of time to grow since they’re a less mature variety.

You can pick green bell peppers at almost any stage, but it’s often a good idea to wait until they’re 3-4 inches long. Otherwise, you get a small amount of fruit and it’s almost not worth your while.

When to Pick Yellow or Orange Bell Peppers

Yellow and orange bell peppers are the stages in between red and green. These colors are both edible, and are much sweeter than their green predecessors.

When to Pick Red Bell Peppers

Red bell peppers are one of my favorites. Unlike other peppers that get spicier when they are allowed to ripen (like jalapeno peppers), bell peppers just get sweeter and sweeter.

Red bell peppers are the most mature flavor of bell pepper, which means they take the longest to get to that stage. You want to pick red bell peppers when the skin is still firm.

In general peppers take a while to ripen anyway, so waiting and harvesting peppers at the red stage can be a battle of patience.

It’s a little tricky because after the red stage bell peppers start to go bad, so you don’t want to wait too long to harvest them. If you do this right though, you get delicious sweet peppers.

How to Harvest Bell Peppers

Now that you know when to harvest peppers, let’s talk about how to do it. Ripping your pepper off the plant can work, but you might end up damaging the plant more than you think.

It’s ideally best to use a nice pair of pruning shears (they run anywhere between $10-$25), while my favorite pair is just $13 at the time of writing this.

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How Do You Cut Bell Peppers Off the Plant

Cut the stem around an inch above the bell pepper fruit. This keeps the stalk attached to the fruit, and tells the plant to stop sending its energy that way. If you cut the fruit off but leave the stem, when new energy starts flowing up that way, it will only be wasted.

The few minutes of extra work cutting the stalk when you take off a pepper is well worth not having to deadhead the plant later when all those flowers start dying and dropping.

how to cut bell peppers

What to Do with Green Peppers

Pepper plants produce quite a bit of fruit once they’re really in season. You might end up with more bell peppers than you wanted in the first place.

So what can you do with all those extra peppers?

Aside from giving them to your neighbors, here are a couple of options for you.

Drying Bell Peppers

After harvesting bell peppers, you’ll want to get them ready for when you need them. This is when I recommend drying your bell peppers, which can be done in a number of ways.

You can use a dehydrator, sundry them, or dry them in the oven.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some answers to common questions about picking and growing bell peppers.

How Cold is Too Cold for Bell Peppers?

If the weather forecast predicts temperatures below freezing, you should pick your peppers before that happens. Otherwise, your harvest will likely be ruined and you won’t have any viable peppers.

How Big Should Bell Peppers Be Before Picking

If you like green bell peppers, you can harvest them at almost any point. Harvesting them when they are smaller will shift the plants’ energy towards producing more flowers, which means more peppers.

Will Bell Peppers Ripen Off the Vine

Peppers, like tomatoes and eggplant, can ripen off the plant. They just do it at a much slower rate. A pepper taken from a plant when green will ripen in about 6 days when placed into a paper bag with an apple, banana or other fruit that gives off ethylene when ripe. If you want to speed up the process, place a piece of bread inside the bag as well. The peppers should be checked every few days after 3-4 days and when the skin has turned from green to tan, when they can be eaten.

How many bell peppers will one plant produce?

Great question. This one depends on the variety of pepper grown, as well as the conditions you are growing them in. Typically, it’s around 5-10 per plant, but I have some in the garden right now that have produced well over 10 and are still going.

How Long After Flowering Do Bell Peppers Appear?

Bell peppers like to take their sweet old time. It can take around 50-60 days to ripen after seeing a bloom. However, these immature peppers are still referred to as unripe.

Should I pick the flowers off my pepper plants?

The only reason to pick flowers off of pepper plants is to get them to put their energy into growing taller. This is a good idea if your plants are only a 10-12 inches tall. The splashback from dirt getting hit with rain can transmit disease which will negatively impact your plants.

By getting them to grow a little taller, you are protecting the plant from some of the impacts of disease and pests.

Do Green Bell Peppers Turn Red After Picking?

Green bell peppers can turn red after picking, but once they are picked they only have a certain amount of time to ripen before they go bad. If you had left the pepper on the plant longer, you have a better chance of getting a nice, firm red pepper with that sweet flavor you’re looking for.

How Do You Get Bell Peppers to Turn Red?

Time. You just have to leave it on the plant a little bit longer. You might not be able to do this all the time due to weather impacts, pests and disease pressure.

Peppers start off green, then turn yellow, orange and eventually red as they go through the ripening process.

You can preserve your bell peppers in a few different ways.

  • Drying
  • Pickling
  • Giving them to your neighbors

Green and Yellow Bell Pepper Recipes:

  • Roasted Red Pepper Soup Recipe with Goat Cheese Croutons
  • Pesto Sauce for Pasta Using Green Peppers
  • Italian Stuffed Peppers

Bell peppers are a popular vegetable when it comes to cooking because they can be prepared in so many different ways. Knowing when to harvest them is critical to getting a good yield from your harvest, and making sure they don’t go bad before you get to enjoy them!

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