Jalapenos have a long growing season, producing a few dozen peppers in the last few weeks of maturity. Unfortunately, not everyone knows the correct time to collect these peppers, and that can lead to less than thrilling results. Unlike other peppers, which are harvested after changing color, these fruits are picked while still green. So, how do you know when to harvest jalapenos? The following information offers everything you need for a bountiful supply. Below, you’ll find the details for both determining when your jalapenos are ready to harvest along with how to do so for maximum yield.
What Are Jalapeno Peppers?
Jalapeno plants originated in Mexico and have a growing season spanning 5 to 6 months, requiring full sun and damp soil to thrive. The peppers they produce are medium-sized and change color as they ripen. They are commonly harvested at the dark green stage when the peppers have mild to moderate spiciness.
The heat depends on the capsaicin level. Capsaicin is a compound found in the protective tissue surrounding the seeds. The longer a jalapeno grows, the more seeds it produces, so picking them earlier offers less spiciness than mature fruits.
For more details on actually growing these delicious peppers, check out our full guide.
Signs Jalapenos Are Ready For Harvest
Jalapenos go through a couple of stages, starting as flowers and turning into peppers. Knowing when to harvest these ensures you get the flavor and heat expected. Luckily, there are a few features to watch for to ensure you’re picking the perfect jalapenos.
Several varieties of jalapeno plants are available, some offering fruits of varying sizes. For instance, the Lemon Spice Jalapenos are only 1.5 – 2.5 inches long, though they are high on the Scoville scale for spiciness at 7500. Jalapeno Gigantes grow up to 5 inches long and are larger than the common varieties.
Despite the wide range, most jalapeno plants bear fruit between 3 and 4 inches long. Unless the seed packet or plant instructions say otherwise, it’s best to harvest jalapenos at this size.
Picking jalapenos when they’re the correct color is essential for the best flavor. Once jalapenos are past the light green stage and achieve a darker shade, they are ready to harvest. Leaving them any longer will result in fully ripened fruits with a red hue and more heat.
As jalapenos mature, you may notice tan or brown streaks along the length of the peppers. These small cracks, called corking, occur when the fruits grow too quickly. Though not the most aesthetically pleasing aspect of the pepper, corking doesn’t harm the fruit, alter the flavoring, or require any adjustment in harvest time.
Tools Needed For Harvesting Jalapenos
Though it may be easier to pull or twist jalapeno peppers off the plant when they’re ripe, this is not the best method to harvest your fruits. Trying to dislodge the fruits with your hands may bend or break the stems or knock unripe fruits off. Instead, purchase a pair of garden shears or hand pruners to harvest ripe jalapenos. This also provides clean cuts which help preserve the plant.
Harvesting Green Jalapeno Peppers
When the jalapenos have reached a lovely dark green hue, it’s harvest time. Place one hand on the branch holding your chosen pepper to keep it steady. Using the shears or pruners, cut the fruit’s stem. Repeat this process with all the ripe fruit. Then collect the harvested peppers.
If the jalapenos harvested aren’t as ripe as expected, place them on the windowsill for a few days. The peppers will ripen in the sun, even reaching the red stage when left long enough.
It’s best to harvest jalapenos as soon as they are ripe. Doing so saves the plant’s energy and encourages it to produce more flowers and peppers for a larger harvest.
Harvesting Red Jalapeno Peppers
Harvesting green jalapenos is the usual method, but those who like spicier peppers often wait until they’ve reached the mature red stage. These riper fruit also have a sweetness the green jalapenos lack.
When the skin of the pepper is completely red, hold the branch and use your cutting tool to snip the stem of each pepper. Then collect the harvested fruit.
What Causes Black Jalapenos?
Though green and red coloring is expected for jalapenos, some peppers may turn an odd black shade. The coloring may indicate something is wrong with the fruit, but this isn’t always the case. In fact, black fruits may still be edible.
As jalapenos ripen, they change from green to red, though the alteration won’t stop there. If the red peppers aren’t harvested, dark discolorations or streaks may form as they continue to ripen. Though these peppers don’t look their best, they can still be picked and eaten.
Some pepper varieties commonly produce fruit with an altered color progression as they ripen. For instance, Black Jalapeno peppers are green in the early stages, then darken to black as they ripen, and finally fully mature as red fruit.
Sunscald occurs when jalapenos are exposed to too much direct sunlight due to thin leaf covering. The skin darkens, though the discoloration doesn’t harm the fruit at first. Over time, without adequate protection, the skin may turn white and rot. Use caution when pruning to avoid losing any peppers to sunscald.
Disease or pests
Like other plants, jalapenos may succumb to disease or pest infestations. Watch for the signs, including black, rotting fruit, wilted leaves, mold, or other plant issues, and treat the cause accordingly.
How To Store Harvested Jalapenos
If you plan to eat your harvested jalapenos right away, place the washed fruit in your refrigerator for a few days. Those you’d like to store long-term can be placed in the freezer or dried and stored in an airtight container.
The moderate spiciness of jalapeno peppers is a lovely addition to almost any meal. As well as standard salsa and nacho recipes, these fruits work well with chicken, pizza, pierogies, muffins, and beverages. Luckily, knowing the proper size and coloring of ripe peppers and using the correct cutting tool is all you require when harvesting jalapenos.