One of the questions we are constantly asked is how do you know when your peppers are ripe and ready to be picked? Well in this post we’ll try and give you a few pointers to help you pick your chillies at the right time so you can maximize both the flavor and yield of your chilli crop.
As a general rule you can usually eat chillies at any stage of ripeness. Most varieties tend to ripen from green to dark brown to red or even possibly yellow. Perhaps the best known example is the humble jalapeno which most people either think of as either red or green. In fact similar to the sweet bell peppers we see in the supermarkets these are the same variety of Jalapeno, just at different stages of ripeness.
The fruit of chillies can generally be eaten at any stage of the ripening process however the flavor will change as the ripening process occurs. When the fruit are green they tend to be slightly bitter and as they move towards red or yellow they tend to sweeten in taste and also lose some of their heat.
Of course there are no golden rules and every chilli variety is different so be warned of generalizations. As a rough rule the smaller the pepper the more heat it will pack. The best way to know when your fruit are ready to ripen is to try and taste them at different stages.
Of course once your fruit are ripe it is definitely worth you while picking them as opposed to leaving them on the plant. The more you pick from your chili plants the more the plant will be encouraged to produce more fruit. If you find yourself in the lucky position of having more fruit than you can eat you should look at different ways to preserve and store your chilli crop.
As with most fruit/vegetables you can harvest chillies a little early and they will continue to ripen after they have been removed from the plant. In order to help prevent them getting spoilt allow them to ripen by placing them in a cool dark place and check after a couple of days. Any longer and you should think about either eating them or drying/freezing or pickling.
At this stage of the growing season it can seem that your chillies will take an age to ripen. As you can see in the picture above many of our varieties such as Orange Habanero, Scotch Bonnet and Apaches are only just starting to turn red. What we need is a sustained period of warm weather to help speed up the ripening process. Of course if you have a greenhouse the ripening process will be much quicker.