How to Harvest and Store Peppers

Peppers nearing harvest

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Peppers can be harvested as soon as they are large enough to eat.

Most mild and hot peppers take at least 70 days from transplanting to reach edible size and another 3 to 4 weeks to reach maturity. Some hot peppers take longer.

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Peppers for harvest
Mild peppers and hot peppers can be harvested when they reach full size and are fully colored, or they can be harvested as soon as they reach a usable size.

If you know the variety of pepper you are growing (check the plant tag or seed packet), you can mark a calendar at planting time to know about when the fruit will reach maturity and harvest. If you don’t know the variety you are growing, you can harvest when the fruit reaches the desired size and color.

Peppers harvest

When to harvest peppers

  • Peppers can be harvested as soon as they are large enough to eat.
  • Mild peppers and hot peppers can be harvested when they reach full size and are fully colored, or they can be harvested as soon as they reach a usable size. Peppers can be eaten at just about any stage of development.
  • Mild peppers commonly get sweeter as they mature. Hot peppers commonly get hotter as they mature.
  • You can harvest peppers when they are green, yellow, orange, purple, brown, or red. Most peppers are green when they are young and red when fully mature. Harvest peppers when they are the size and color you want.
  • All peppers start out green and turn color as they mature. Red, green, and yellow bell peppers will start out green but turn color as they mature. Most hot peppers will turn red when mature but can be eaten green.
  • Harvest all peppers when the fruit is firm. Peppers that stay on the plant past maturity can still be used as long as the fruit is firm.
  • The more often you cut fruit, the more the plant will blossom and produce.
  • When a frost or freeze is forecast, harvest all of the peppers remaining on the plant. Use the large peppers and compost the small ones.

Sweet pepper harvest

Sweet peppers can be picked when immature or full size, green or red–as soon as they are big enough to use. Pick all peppers before the first light frost. Sweet peppers become sweeter when they change colors; hot peppers become hotter when they change colors. Both increase their vitamin A and C content with ripening.

Most peppers will eventually turn red if left on the vine; some types turn orange, yellow, or brown-purple.

Hot pepper harvest

Hot peppers can be picked at any time–any size or color–for fresh use; hot peppers for drying or pickling should be picked when fully ripe. Hot peppers commonly get hotter as they mature.

Pepper harvest
Use a pruner to harvest peppers; do not pull the fruit from the plant.

How to harvest peppers

Use a sharp knife or pruners to harvest peppers. Pulling peppers away from the plant can cause branches to break or tear and leave the plant vulnerable to disease. Leave some of the stem attached to the pepper when cutting fruit.

A good pepper harvest practice is to harvest some peppers to serve green and let others mature to red or full color on the vine. This will give you a mix of flavor, heat, and nutrition. Fully ripe and immature peppers can be served fresh together. Harvest peppers when they are the right size for your use.

  • Cut peppers from the plant with a pruning shear or knife. Leave a short stub of stem attached to the fruit. Do not pull peppers from the plant by hand; this can result in broken branches. 
  • Use gloves when you harvest hot peppers to protect your skin. Hot peppers contain capsaicin oil which can burn the hands, eyes, nose, and mouth.

Pepper growing tips can be found at How to Grow Hot Peppers and How to Grow Sweet Peppers.

Peppers will keep in the refrigerator if it is not too cold; rinse the fruit with water, pat them dry.

How to store peppers

  • Peppers continue to ripen after picking; place peppers in a cool place after harvest or they will over-ripen. Peppers will keep for one to two weeks after harvest at 50° to 60°F (10-15°C) in a moist place.
  • Store peppers at 55°F (13°C) for up to two weeks.
  • Peppers will keep in the refrigerator if it is not too cold; rinse the fruit with water, pat them dry, and place them in a perforated plastic bag in the crisper section of the refrigerator. (You can purchase perforated plastic bags or make your own by punching 20 holes in a medium-size bag; use a hole punch or sharp object.)
  • Peppers should not be stored at temperatures cooler than 45°F (7°C). Peppers stored at temperatures too cool will soften or shrivel and can develop pitting, water-soaked areas, and decay.
  • Harvested peppers that have begun to change color will continue to ripen when kept at room temperature for three days. Peppers that haven’t begun to change colors but are at or near full size can be eaten green
  • Peppers with blossom end rot or sunscald should be used as soon as possible and should not be stored because they will decay more quickly.

Drying and freezing peppers

Hot peppers for drying should be picked when red or orange. Choose only thin-walled peppers for natural drying; thick-walled hot peppers such as jalapeño and serrano will rot before they air dry. (Dry these peppers by smoking.) Air dry hot peppers in a warm place with good air circulation. Peppers can also be dried in a food dryer or on a baking sheet in an oven at 175°F (79°C) maximum.

Sweet and hot peppers can be frozen without blanching first. Freeze or dry any peppers that you can

Extending the pepper season

If peppers are not ripe when temperatures grow cool, you can cover plants under plant blankets or clear plastic spread over a frame or hoops. Do this when nighttime temperature dips below 60°F (15°C) or days consistently average less than 70°F (21°C). Like tomatoes, pepper plants can be lifted whole from the garden and hung upside down indoors to continue ripening.

Kitchen tips: Five Ways to Cook Sweet Peppers and Five Ways to Cook Chili Peppers

Pepper articles at Harvest to Table:

How to Grow Sweet Bell Peppers

How to Plant and Grow Hot Chili Peppers

Pepper Seed Starting Tips

Six Tips to Grow Peppers for Flavor

7 Tips for Growing Peppers in Pots

How to Harvest and Store Peppers

Five Ways to Cook and Serve Sweet Peppers

Five Ways to Cook and Serve Chili Peppers

Beginner’s Guide to Canning Peppers

Pepper Growing Problems Troubleshooting

Epsom Salt, Milk, and Organic Fertilizers for Tomatoes and Peppers

How to Prevent Blossom Drop — Tomatoes and Peppers

Garden Planning Books at Amazon:

More harvest tips:

Learn when and how to harvest your favorite vegetables for the best flavor and texture. Get storage tips for each crop. Click on the vegetable you are growing below.

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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