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How to Harvest and Store Peppers

Peppers for harvestPepper 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.

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
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.

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

How to Harvest Peppers

  • 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

  • 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.

Quick tips on preserving peppers at Beginners’ Guide to Canning Peppers.

More tips at How to Grow Sweet Peppers and How to Grow Hot Peppers

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