Serrano peppers are great for adding to salsas, pico de gallo, sauces, and for making hot sauce. Picking the perfect pickled pepper for Peter piper is a tough job. 😉
But really, it’s not always easy to figure out when to pick serrano peppers off the plant.
With the Serrano pepper being 5x as hot as jalapeño peppers (up to 15,000 Scoville units), it’s probably a good idea to wear gloves, just in case you accidentally break one while harvesting and get it on your hands.
When to Pick Serrano Peppers
Being able to tell when a serrano pepper is ripe is a pretty tough job. Unlike other chile peppers that change colors as they ripen (i.e. cayenne peppers or banana peppers), the serrano is always green. It’s kind of like a bell pepper in that sense.
There are a few ways to tell if a pepper is ready to be picked or not. When starting serrano pepper seeds, they are usually ready to be harvested around the 70-85 day mark. If you buy a seedling, check the tags as they should give you a serrano pepper planting guide as to how long until your chili peppers will be ready.
The color of a serrano pepper is a pretty good indication of whether it’s ready to be picked or not. Red serrano peppers are more spicy than their green counterparts. If you like really hot peppers, I’d wait until they at least start to turn red before harvesting them.
Similar to when you harvest jalapeno peppers, if you start to see brown lines on the fruits, that’s a great indicator that they are ready to be picked.
Serrano peppers usually get to be between 2 and 4 inches long when ready to be picked. The smaller peppers are going to be more hot in flavor, while the longer ones have slightly less heat.
The thickness of the skin and walls of the pepper can help you decide if they are ready to harvest. Slightly squeeze the pepper between two fingers, and if it feels too thin, give it a couple of extra days.
They Easily Come off the Plant
Another way to see if tell when to pick serrano pepper is to give the stem a slight tug upwards. If it easily comes off the serrano pepper plant, you can go ahead and pick them. If there is some resistance, give your peppers a few more days.
This is useful way to tell if they’re ready especially if you like your serrano peppers green, as it can be hard to differentiate between a pepper that’s still ripening, vs one that’s mature.
When to Pick Your Serrano Peppers
We talked about at which point you should pick your peppers, but did you know that the time of day can have an impact on the flavor as well?
Harvesting your peppers in the later morning, after the morning dew has dried, is a great time to harvest your peppers. Similar to picking tomatoes, waiting until this time will produce a better flavor than they would by waiting to pick them at the height of the afternoon heat.
Should You Pick Green Serrano Peppers or Wait Until They Turn Red?
The answer as to what color you want them to be when you harvest them is going to come down to personal preference. The green serrano peppers will be much milder than a pepper would be if you waited for it to turn red.
Harvesting green peppers is a good idea if your guests like a more mild heat and chili pepper flavor.
Red serrano peppers will have a more sweet flavor, but quite a bit more capsaicin, which makes your brain perceive them as hotter than their green counterparts.
How to Harvest Serrano Peppers
Harvesting serrano peppers is not a hard job, but you want to make sure you’re not harming the plant in the process.
When serrano peppers are ready to be harvested, they’re usually pretty easy to just pull right off the plant. Grab the stem and pull upwards, and the stem should separate from the plant.
Some are a little more tricky, especially if you pick them when they’re green. I like to use pruning shears for this job to make sure it’s a clean cut.
Here is where you should be cutting your peppers:
How Many Serrano Peppers Per Plant?
It’s not uncommon for serrano pepper plants to produce 50 or more peppers, up to 2.5 pounds of fruits. That’s a lot of peppers!
Growing them in the right conditions and adding fertilizer as needed can give you an even more prolific plant.
How to Use Serrano Peppers
The serrano pepper plant is a small, compact plant that grows best in full sun. It can be grown in containers or in the garden. The plants do not need a lot of water and can tolerate some drought conditions. Serrano peppers can be used to make hot sauce, salsa, and other dishes.
As I mentioned earlier, serrano peppers are a great option for almost any dish that needs a little extra heat added to it.
Fresh Salsas and Pico de Gallo
Serrano peppers make a great addition to pico de gallo. For a milder flavor, use only one pepper. For a spicier flavor, use two or more peppers. Seed and dice the peppers and add them to the other ingredients in the pico de gallo recipe.
Salsa verde is another great option, combining freshly harvested tomatillos and serrano peppers.
Serrano Pepper Oil
You can also make serrano pepper oil (aka chile oil) if you like a spicier version of the condiment.
Serrano peppers are widely enjoyed in Mexican cuisine, Thai food, as well as a variety of other types of cooking. They can be substituted for a jalapeno pepper as long as you are aware that they can be a lot spicier.
A jalapeno pepper ranges from around 2,500 to 10,000 Scoville Heat Units (SHU).
A serrano pepper can range from 10,000 to 25,000 Scoville Heat Units (SHU).
That’s a pretty big difference! Keep that in mind if you’re substituting one of those peppers for another.
Now You’re a Pro at Harvesting Serrano Peppers!
Deciding when to pick serrano peppers can be confusing if you’ve never done it before. But once you get the hang of it, it’s easy!
If you like hotter serrano peppers, pick them when they’re turning red or are fully red.
If you like sweeter serrano peppers, pick them when they are still green, but about 3-4 inches in length.
Growing serrano peppers can be a fun experience since they’re pretty easy to grow, and once they start flowering, you will quickly end up with a ton of fruits from your chili pepper plants.