When I first started growing chili peppers, it was kind of confusing to figure out when the perfect time to harvest them was.
I can handle some heat, but I don’t want the full heat of a habanero every time, so I went looking for other ways to tell when habaneros are ready to be harvested.
When to Pick Habaneros
You can start to pick habanero peppers when they are about 2-3 inches long, and a lime green. Yes, while most habaneros you see are orange or red, you can absolutely eat them when they are green.
Picking green habaneros is a good idea if you’re not used to the heat of a fully ripe habanero – but honestly, do you ever really get used to the heat?!
When the pepper starts to get striations or tan lines on the skin, that’s a great sign that they are ready to be picked and will have a good flavor. They’ll have a little heat to them, but not too much.
Here are some other ways to tell if it’s the right time to pick your habanero peppers.
When They Were Planted / Days to Harvest
Keeping an eye on when you planted your peppers is a great way to get a rough estimate of when they’ll be ready to harvest.
Habanero peppers typically take around 65-90 days to mature, but each variety has a different time to reach maturity, so you can check your seed packets or the website where you bought them.
Here are some of the more common habanero varieties and their typical harvest dates:
- Orange habaneros – 80 days green, 100 orange ripe
- White habaneros – 95-105 days
- Roulette Habaneros – 70 days green; 90 days red
- Numex suave orange – 70 days green; 90 days orange
- Hot paper lantern – 70 days green; 90 days red ripe
- Helios – 67 days green, 86 days orange
Once you plant them, try to get in the habit of making a note in your calendar so you can start looking for ripe peppers around that time. Of course, not every plant will mature at the same rate, and depending on the environment, pest pressure, and watering schedule, some may mature sooner than others.
But this at least gives you a rough estimate.
The Color of the Peppers
Habaneros go through stages of the ripening process, starting off as a lime green and then turning into orange and eventually red habaneros, and every shade in between.
The color of the pepper you’re looking for is going to depend on how hot you want your peppers to be. Ripe habaneros are usually a full red or orange, depending on the variety you’re growing.
So if you like your peppers spicy, it’s worth it to try letting a few go until they are red habanero peppers, as they are definitely going to have more spice to them.
If you’re going for more mild habaneros, watch for striations on the skin. These are little tan stripes almost that tell you the skin is stretching and they are going to have a good kick to them, but not be as spicy as fully mature ones. You can go ahead and harvest your peppers at this point.
The size of your habaneros is an easy way to tell if they are ready, or at least full grown. Habanero peppers get to be around 2-3 inches long when they are ready to be picked.
You can harvest the habanero plant before they are that long, but the flavor will be off and they won’t have as much heat as the hot peppers you’re used to.
Texture and Firmness
You’ll know habaneros are ready to harvest by the firmness of the fruit. If you gently squeeze one, it should give slightly. If it feels hard or if the skin pops back into place, it means the tissue is too tight and needs to be stretched out more.
How Easily They Come Off the Plant
While I’d always recommend using pruning shears to cut fruit off your pepper plants, if you give the pepper a slight tug upwards, it should easily come off the plant. If it doesn’t, then you might want to wait a little bit. Or if all other signs say it’s ripe, go ahead and use pruning shears to cut your peppers off.
When to Harvest Habanero Peppers (Time of Day)
Okay, so the peppers are ready to be picked, and you’re wondering if there is a better time than others to pick them.
The ideal time of day to pick your habanero 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 off the pepper plant before this happens will help the fruit keep longer in your kitchen.
How to Harvest Habanero Peppers
Harvesting your spicy peppers is pretty straightforward (if you left enough space between your pepper plants for easy harvesting!). You can either pull it off the plant with shear might or use pruning shears.
If pulling it off, hold the plant in one hand, and pull the pepper stem off with the other hand. Pull up on the pepper and it should easily come off the plant.
If using sharp scissors or pruning shears, cut the pepper from the stems, being careful not to cut other branches or leaves in the process.
Here is where you should be aiming to make your cut:
If you’re sensitive to the spiciness of the pepper seeds, make sure to wear gloves when harvesting habaneros, as sometimes you can accidentally split open a pepper while harvesting.
This can get the juice and spicy seeds on your hands, and before you know it you’ve touched your eye, your lip, and other sensitive areas. Whoops!
How to Use & Store Habanero Peppers
Habaneros are not only a delicious addition to many dishes, but they can also be used for a variety of other purposes.
You can dry your peppers for storage, or make pickled habanero peppers (great for tacos and other Mexican dishes!). Here are some other great ways to use them:
- Habanero hot sauce
- Chili paste
- Pickled peppers
- Mango habanero salsa
Frequently Asked Questions About Harvesting Habanero Peppers
What Is The Ideal Time of Year to Pick Habaneros?
The ideal time of year to pick your peppers is going to depend on when you planted them. Some people get a headstart on the season by starting seeds indoors and bringing them outside once their frost date has passed.
Pepper varieties like serrano peppers, jalapeno peppers, and banana peppers need quite a bit of heat to grow properly. If it’s too cold they aren’t going to produce well for you. If you want a lot of habaneros, summer is going to be the best time to grow them.
What Happens If I Pick Habaneros Too Early or Too Late?
Nothing bad is going to happen if you pick them too early or too late. Picking habaneros too early will usually just mean it’s a little less spicy than letting it fully ripen – which might be a good thing depending on your tolerance!
The only real consequence of picking your habaneros too late is that they can turn a deep red color and have a lot more heat to them.
How Long Do Habaneros Last After They Have Been Picked?
If you refrigerate your peppers, they will often stay good for a week or two. But if there are on the counter it might only be a couple of days.
You’ll know when they are turning bad because the skin will start to wrinkle and they will become mushy.
Can Habaneros be Frozen?
You can absolutely freeze habaneros, but keep in mind they aren’t going to magically come back to their original state when you take them out. While they do keep some of the crisp texture, they will lose quite a bit of that when you remove them from the freezer.
A frozen habanero can stay good up to a year if stored properly. Growing peppers can be a lot of fun, and the plants are quite prolific so you’ll end up with a lot of hot peppers each season.