The process of nurturing something from seed to fruit, and bringing it from the soil to the dining table is truly rewarding. If you have a kitchen garden with hot chili peppers, you will know that nothing beats the taste of freshly harvested hot chili peppers when adding some spice to your cooking.
However, to have this pepper on your kitchen table requires effort and precision. Growing chili peppers is an art. The first step is to ensure you have the highest quality chili pepper seeds for successful germination. Following this, you can expect with careful nurturing for your plants to mature and start bearing chili peppers between 60-150 days.
Even though these plants do not require a lot of care and work, they can give you a hard time during the harvest. This happens because the time frame between the ripening of chili to harvesting and then storing it is very critical. Let’s jump into the finer details of how to harvest hot chili peppers.
How to Tell if Chili Peppers Are Ripe?
Before we jump into the how of harvesting chili peppers, let’s address when the optimal time is to harvest a chili pepper.
The answer is simple, whenever the chilies are ripe.
As mentioned, chilies take somewhere between 60 to 150 days to ripen and are ready for harvest in the summer. However, there are a few indicators that can help you gauge the stage of the pepper.
Firstly, the color of the pepper is a big indicator. Depending on the kind of pepper, you would know when it is ready. Pepper starts with green and then turns red. So just looking at the pepper would give you an idea of whether it is ripe or not.
The second indicator is size. When your pepper has reached its full size and you could see it corking (you would see lines that resemble a stretch mark on the surface of your peppers). When you notice these lines, it means the chili peppers are ready for harvest.
Harvesting Hot Chili Peppers
Harvesting Hot chili peppers is not that difficult. Often people fear harvesting peppers since there is a common misconception that harvesting peppers reduce their future growth. This is simply not. As a matter of fact, the more often you cut the fruit off the plant, the more it will foster future growth.
Once you know that your chilis are ripe, take a pruning knife and cut the pepper off from the plant’s vine. Make sure to cut a piece of the stem along with it and do not pull the plant too much since it can damage its root.
Depending on the ripeness, a pepper can come off its branch easily. If the pepper is thoroughly ripe, you can even pluck it with your hands. However, the roots of the pepper plant are shallow and may come out of the soil if pulled too harshly. It is better to use a knife or cutter to pluck the peppers.
When picking peppers, it is important to wear gloves as the oils of these peppers can cause a burning sensation in your skin.
Storing and Preserving
If you pick a pepper when it has just started changing color, it will keep on ripening for three days. After that, you will have to store it in a fridge. Peppers can stay fresh for 1 to 2 weeks when refrigerated.
If you plan on drying your peppers before storage, make sure to harvest them once they are slightly overripe. This way the pepper will lose all its moisture and is more likely to dry out fast.
Moreover, if you have had a surplus of produce, you can pickle or deep freeze the peppers for later use!
Caring For Hot Peppers
- Hot chili peppers don’t like the cold. If you are expecting a change in weather, make sure to cover them during the night and keep them in the open during the day.
- Likewise, if the weather is expected to be too hot, use a shade cloth to prevent your peppers from burning in the sun.
- Another important thing to note is to avoid using high nitrogen fertilizers as these result in leafy plants that rarely produce any fruit.
- It is important to keep the soil moist (not wet) for peppers. Increase the water frequency when you see peppers growing and water heavily before harvesting.
- If you plan to reuse the seeds for future harvest, make sure that the pepper you harvest is fully ripe. Make sure that the pepper is completely red, which indicates that seeds are now viable to reproduce.
Having fresh produce out of the garden does not only taste better but has a higher nutritional value. It is said that various vegetables and fruits start to lose their nutritional value once they are harvested but having your garden overcomes this problem.
Make sure to read up before you invest in home gardening as each fruit and plant requires different attention and care. Till then, Happy Gardening!
Bio: Jason Marston is a chili pepper fanatic. His love for spicy food led him to working with Sonoran Spice where they specialize in the world’s hottest chili peppers and hot sauces. When his not growing chili peppers or eating spicy food, his out hiking or mountain biking.