When I first started growing chili peppers, it was kind of confusing to figure out when the perfect time to harves them was. I love having fresh jalapenos in my guacamole and pickled jalapenos on tacos, so there was a lot of pressure to get it right! 🙂
They’re green throughout most of the growing process, so it’s not easy to tell when they are the right color green to pick. So I went looking for other ways to tell when jalapenos are ready to be harvested.
When to Pick Jalapenos
You can start to pick jalapeno peppers when they are about 3 inches long, and a deep green. 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 jalapeno 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.
Jalapeno peppers typically take around 60-90 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 jalapeno varieties and their typical harvest dates:
- Purple jalapenos – 85 days
- Chilipeño hybrid – 70-80 days red
- Early jalapeño – 60-65 days green; 80 days red
- El Jefe – 65-70 days green; 90 days red
- Black Magic – 65 days green; 85-90 days red
- Arriba – 63 days yellow
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
Jalapenos go through stages of the ripening process, starting off as dark green and then turn into red jalapenos, and every shade in between. If left on the jalapeno plants, your peppers will get to a bright red, almost purple color.
The color of the pepper you’re looking for is going to depend on how hot you want your peppers to be. Ripe jalapenos are usually a full red, but oftentimes many people like the use them when they’re green and not as spicy.
But, if you like your peppers spicy, it’s worth it to try letting a few go until they are red jalapeno peppers, as they are definitely going to have more spice to them.
If you’re going for “typical” more mild jalapenos, 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 jalapenos at this point.
The size of your jalapenos is an easy way to tell if they are ready, or at least full grown. Jalapeno peppers get to be around 3-4 inches long when they are ready to be picked.
You can harvest the jalapeno 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 jalapenos 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.
When to Harvest Jalapeno 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 jalapeno 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 Jalapeno Peppers
Harvesting your spicy peppers is pretty straightforward (if you left enough space between your jalapeno 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 jalapenos, as sometimes you can accidentally split open a pepper while harvesting.
This can get the capsaicin and spicy seeds on your hands, and before you know it you’ve touched your eye, your lip, and other sensitive areas. Oh, the life of gardeners!
How to Use & Store Jalapeno Peppers
Jalapenos 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 jalapeno peppers for storage, or make pickled jalapeno peppers (great for tacos!). Here are some other great ways to use them:
- Spicy margarita – they make such great spicy drinks!
- Pickled jalapenos
- Other Mexican dishes
You can also use your jalapenos as a natural insecticide by making a chili or hot pepper spray. Simply place a few jalapenos around your plants, and the pests will stay away. This works for deer, squirrels, and rabbits!
You can also use jalapenos to make a homemade bug spray. Just blend up a few jalapenos and add them to a spray bottle of water. This will help keep the bugs away and it’s completely natural and safe – just make sure not to touch your eyes!
Frequently Asked Questions About Harvesting Jalapeno Peppers
What Is The Ideal Time of Year to Pick Jalapenos?
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. But you can also grow them year-round indoors using hydroponics or even in a grow tent.
Pepper varieties like serrano peppers, bell 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 green jalapenos, summer is going to be the best time to grow them.
What Happens If I Pick Jalapenos Too Early or Too Late?
Nothing bad is going to happen if you pick them too early or too late. Picking a jalapeno too early will usually just mean it’s a little less spicy than letting it fully ripen.
The only real consequence of picking your jalapenos too late is that they can turn a deep red color and have a lot more heat to them. For some people this is ideal, but if you want a “regular” jalapeno flavor and heat level, it might be too late.
How Long Do Jalapenos Last After They Have Been Picked?
If you refrigerate your jalapenos, 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 Jalapenos be Frozen?
You can absolutely freeze jalapenos, 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 jalapeno 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.