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When are my chilli peppers ripe?

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.

UnRipe Cayenne Chilli

Ripe Cayenne Chilli

 

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.

Over ripe chillies

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.




40 comments… add one
  • Lee October 9, 2016, 7:08 am

    Hi
    I live in Switzerland and have just grown Mozambique black eyed chilli with great success on my sun terrace….lots of fruit.not sure what to do with my plant should I leave it outside as we have a harsh winter, will it survive or should I take it indoors.
    Thanks
    Lee

    • The Chilli King October 13, 2016, 9:22 am

      Lee,
      If i were you i would be inclined to take it inside over winter. Check out our articles on overwintering for some more specific advice on getting your plants through the winter.

  • Dawn September 20, 2015, 5:27 pm

    Hi, we have chilli peppers in our garden it is mid September. They haven’t turned red yet, should I Transplant them into a pot and bring them inside? We live in central Michigan.

    • The Chilli King October 1, 2015, 10:48 am

      Dawn,
      If you can get them inside in a sunny spot. Heat and light are key to getting peppers to ripen. Good luck!

  • Stevan April 4, 2015, 3:42 am

    Hey there, great website!!

    I planted some Jalapeno seeds in late October and as we have had a relatively mild summer here in Melbourne Australia, they havent sprouted up until recently.Considering we are now heading into winter, and the nights are becoming quite cold is there anyway of wintering the seedlings over until summer? Im currently moving the pot around as to give them maximum sun however, as the days get colder im really not sure what to do?

    • The Chilli King May 5, 2015, 1:46 pm

      Steven,
      Over wintering seedlings is not going to be easy unless you keep them indoors and use some sort of grow lights. Good luck.

  • Cecilia October 15, 2014, 11:18 am

    I have four chilli plants they all have lovely green chillies on them, but non have ripen yet. The thing is they are all growing outside in pots at the moment.. Should I bring them into the garage now. Or pick them and put into a dish and bring into the house.. or leave outside and see if they ripen. From Chilli Queen ..

    • The Chilli King October 15, 2014, 11:38 am

      Cecilia,
      If you can move them inside somewhere where they still get lots of light and can be kept warm. Ideally a south facing windowsill or a conservatory would be best to maximise your ripening!

  • Matt September 22, 2014, 9:40 pm

    will chilis grow in Canada?

    • The Chilli King October 2, 2014, 11:10 am

      Matt,
      Of course they will. However with you’re cold winters I expect you’ll have to start off by growing under glass in the spring like we do here in the UK.

  • Rob C September 20, 2014, 5:43 pm

    Hi James,
    Have got something noshing away at me scotch bonnets , the plant is in a pot where some of the leaves have been noshed as well , any ideas King ? Tried nibbling one meself-no heat as yet !
    They are all green.
    Kind Regards
    Rob C

    • The Chilli King October 2, 2014, 11:08 am

      Hi Rob,
      It’s hard to say without seeing pictures? Is it the fruit or the leaves that are being eaten?

  • Wardy September 20, 2014, 6:38 am

    I have a couple Scotch Bonnet plants that I was able to keep over winter last year. This year they have been prolific. However one of them seems to be producing yellow Scotch Bonnets when last year they were red. Is this common for them to change colour and is there a difference in taste as I have not tried one of the yellow ones yet.
    Also how many time can a Scotch Bonnet plant be kept over winter?

    • The Chilli King October 2, 2014, 11:04 am

      Wardy,
      This sounds strange. Are you sure the yellow pods won’t ripen through to red? Maybe you just missed the in between stage last year?!
      Well, my oldest scotch bonnet plant is 5 years old now. I trim the roots every year and re-pot it into fresh compost. If you look after your plants they’ll reward you back!

  • Mike September 13, 2014, 11:22 am

    Paul,

    I grow chillies for fun, not ever having had a taste of one, but my scotch bonnets have been green for a long time. How much longer should I wait for them to turn red, assuming that is the time for picking. They are all in a non heated green house, but are watered every day.

    Your valuable thoughts would be appreciated.

    Mike

    • The Chilli King October 2, 2014, 11:13 am

      Mike,
      Sometimes I find ‘under watering’ slightly can be good for chillies – some say it improves the heat levels. Patience is the only thing you can employ in this situations. You’ll find that once one pod starts to ripen, they will all start to turn.Good luck!

  • Ste September 6, 2014, 5:10 pm

    Hi there, we have both Jalapeño and scotch bonnets growing and look almost ready. Not bad for first timers yum yum! Gonna make some sauces as well as adding to pizza ect. Anyone ideas pls. (Also thinking of bottling in olive oil).

    • Karen March 18, 2017, 9:24 pm

      Try drying your chillies then grinding then with Himalayan rock salt and using it in cooking or at the table.

  • Jeremy Becker August 21, 2014, 12:50 pm

    I have grown some yellow scotch bonnet peppers and I accidentally picked one that was not completely ripe. Will it continue to finish ripening on its own?

    • The Chilli King August 29, 2014, 4:22 pm

      Jeremy,
      It should continue to ripen a little before it starts to spoil. Try and keep it in a cool dry place to prolong it’s shelf life!

  • jimdog August 17, 2014, 1:05 am

    Good site. I currently have scotch bonnets, ghosts, nagas, morugas and satans kiss growing. They weren’t producing fruit only flowers. Took a small fine paintbrush to each flower to help then pollinate (some say they should produce themselves but this had always helped me) and with in a week they are fruiting like mad.

  • paul August 13, 2014, 7:50 am

    i have grown some scotch bonnets when are they ready to pick some of them are large they are still green should i wait till they change colour

    • The Chilli King August 19, 2014, 10:16 am

      Paul,
      It can seem to take forever for them to ripen. You can try them green but they’ll be better with more flavour if you wait for them to ripen fully.

  • chris ware August 11, 2014, 8:19 pm

    Hello guys and girls. Im new to growing chillis my plant has started to fruit but im not sure what type i have. My plant is about 25 30 cm tall producing white flowers, then fruits. The chilis are dark green And about 2 or 3 cm long but quite chunky ? Any idears people? Also is there any way to put A pic up for you? Cheers chris

    • The Chilli King August 19, 2014, 10:22 am

      They sound like maybe Jalapeno peppers?

  • Faye July 24, 2014, 4:07 pm

    Great site! I’m completely new to growing chilies and have one small apache plant which seems to be very happy in the garden! It’s only about 20cm high and fruiting like mad! Lots of green chilies about 4cm in length! How big do they get and when is best to harvest them? Many thanks

    • The Chilli King August 2, 2014, 2:07 pm

      Faye,

      Glad you have caught the cilli bug! Apaches tend to grow to about 3-5cm n length and are ripe once they’ve turned red. Apache chilli plants are great in that they crop heavily, grow quickly and put up with the British climate really well.

      Happy growing!

  • steve.n July 13, 2014, 12:25 pm

    thanks first time i’ve grown finger green chillies they are just coming out looking foward to tasting them.mmmmmmmmmmmm

  • Brie June 3, 2014, 9:01 am

    Hi, great site, thank you, very useful and helpful. This is the first year of my Royal Black Chillies fruiting, (window sill in the UK) and I’m not so worried about the colour (presume black or turning fine) when they are ready but should they come away easily when ripe? Thanks in anticipation.

    • The Chilli King June 5, 2014, 3:54 pm

      Hi Brie,

      Glad you like the site and find it helpful. With most varieties of chillies you’ll need to snip the fruit off when ripe.

  • Lucy October 1, 2013, 8:42 pm

    I bought a chilli plant in the supermarket and have been keeping it inside on a window sill in the UK. There was no variety specified but I’ve identified it as most likely a bird’s eye plant, except the chillies grow upwards. Since i brought it home i have harvested some chillies that were already on it and it has flowered with new chillies growing successfully, however I’m finding they are turning from green to red when they are still extremely small, some around 1cm long. Is there anything i can do to help them grow to full size before ripening? Thanks for any advice you can offer me.

    • The Chilli King November 1, 2013, 5:16 pm

      Maybe it is not a birds eye chilli plant. From the sounds of it you may have a Demon red plant. Check out my recent post on them.

  • wendy May 22, 2013, 7:33 am

    Hi
    i have an Enony Fire chilli plant ..the picture that came with it has red and black chillies on it …when and what colour should i pick these …i am hoping to get hot chillies

    thanks ..wendy

    • The Chilli King May 28, 2013, 4:38 pm

      Wendy – I believe Ebony chillies mature from the black/purple colour through to red. You’re able to eat them at any stage though they’re technically not ripe until they are red. The heat and flavour will probably change as they ripen to try one of each colour and see which you prefer.

  • NetteJ June 9, 2011, 4:15 pm

    I have a few Scotch Bonnet plants that have produced fruit, How do I know when they are ripe? One has been yellow for about 3-4 weeks, is this ripe?

    • The Chilli King June 15, 2011, 11:13 am

      NatteJ – What variety of Bonnets are you growing? Most ripen through to red but you can eat them when yellow.

  • Kelby B December 21, 2009, 1:06 pm

    I am growing a few varieties of Chillies in my garden in Durban South Africa. This is the first time I have grown chillies and they sure take a while to ripen. Planted seeds in July and first chilli to begin ripening was December.

    Biggest problem I have is pests eating the leaves and the newly formed flowers. This is really stunted the growth of some of my plants.

    • the king December 23, 2009, 5:29 pm

      yup, pests like aphids sure can ruin a plant if they are left to do too much damage. one simple remedy is to try spraying the infected plants with a weak soapy solution – aphids hate this.

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