When to Pick Jalapenos from Plant: Timing Your Harvest for Perfect Peppers

As I am writing this, I just transplanted close to 20 Jalapeno plants. While they might not all make it into the garden, I don’t mind having a surplus, as we really enjoy them.

Growing jalapenos is one of my favorite peppers to grow, especially the variety that is good for poppers.

Growing them in your garden can add a spicy kick to your meals, but knowing when to pick Jalapenos from plant is important for best flavor and heat.

Jalapenos are typically ready to be harvested when they’re firm. 3 to 4 inches long is preferred, with a bright green color.

However, if you prefer a milder taste, you might want to harvest them a bit earlier. Our kids are incredibly sensitive to heat, but some of them really enjoy them if they have a mild flavor.

If you’re after a more intense heat and a slight sweetness, you can leave them on the plant to turn red.

Of course, this also depends on your growing season, as sometimes they don’t have time to get red (season 3 here!)

As a jalapeno matures, it may develop small cracks, or ‘corking,’ on its surface, which is sometimes a sign of ripeness.

These marks are purely cosmetic and don’t affect the pepper’s taste or spiciness.

Your harvest time will also be influenced by your regional climate and the specific variety of jalapeno you’re growing.

It’s helpful to keep an eye on the weather and be familiar with your chosen variety. I planted a hotter variety this time, called Jalapeno M.

They have a longer growing period, but are a heirloom variety. I’m trying to grow more heirloom varieties, so that I can save the seeds more effectively.

In previous years we’ve really enjoyed the LaBomba variety. They are a mild, short growing season pepper.

Understanding Jalapeno Maturity

Picking jalapenos at the right time has a huge impact on flavor and heat.

Understanding the signs of maturity will help you harvest them at their peak.

Identifying Maturity Signs

Observe your jalapeno plants closely. Look for the first signs of the pepper’s maturity:

  • A firm, thick walled pepper

  • Development of a corking pattern – small white lines or flecks on the surface.

  • The number of days passed since planting may also be indicative; typically 70-80 days for jalapenos.

Color and Size Indicators

Your jalapenos’ color and size offer visual cues for maturity:

  • Sizes: A mature jalapeno typically measures between 2 to 3.5 inches in length.

  • Colors: They start out green and may turn to reddish-purple, and then red when fully mature. We harvest most of ours when they are dark green. Fermented Jalapenos are delicious.

Texture and Firmness

Finally, the feel of your jalapenos can guide you:

  • A firm texture suggests a younger pepper, while a slight give indicates ripeness.

  • Overly soft or wrinkled peppers may be past their prime for harvest.

Best Time of Day to Pick

The ideal time to pick your jalapeños is in the morning. The morning coolness ensures the peppers are crisp and fully hydrated, which can reduce wilting after picking.

Seasonal Considerations

Jalapeños typically mature in 70-85 days after transplanting, with optimal picking times occurring in the late summer through early fall. Use this timeline:

  • Spring: Plant seedlings after the last frost.

  • Summer: Regularly check for maturing peppers.

  • Fall: Harvest before the first frost to avoid damage.

Remember, peppers can continue to ripen after being picked, so you can play around with preferences for flavor and spiciness.

Red jalapeños are left on the plant longer and tend to be sweeter and hotter.

Harvesting Techniques

Before you head out to your garden to harvest jalapeños, here are some tips and tools to use for a successful and easy picking experience.

Proper Picking Method

When harvesting jalapeños, you’re aiming for a clean pick that doesn’t damage the plant. Look for peppers that are firm and have a bright, glossy color.

These are indicators of ripeness.

To pick a jalapeño, grasp the stem with your thumb and forefinger and gently twist until the fruit snaps off.

You can also cut the pepper from the plant using a pair of scissors or pruners, which is especially helpful if the stem is thick and doesn’t snap easily.

Make sure to leave a short stub of stem on the fruit to prolong its shelf life.

Tools for Harvesting

To make the harvesting process more efficient, consider using the following tools:

  • Pruning Shears or Scissors: Ideal for snipping stems, especially when they’re tough. Make sure the blades are clean to prevent disease spread.

  • Gloves: Jalapeño peppers contain capsaicin, which can cause a burning sensation on your skin, so wearing gloves can protect your hands.

  • Basket or Container: Have something to place your picked jalapeños in as you move down the row. A basket or container will hold the peppers and prevent bruising.

You’ll want to wash the jalapenos before cooking with them. I prefer washing with cold, clear water. This gets rid of any extra dirt, and doesn’t add in any chemicals.

After you’ve picked your jalapenos, washing and storing them correctly will help to maintain their freshness and flavor.

Storing Jalapenos

To keep your jalapenos fresh, store them in the refrigerator as soon as possible.

Place them in a plastic bag and store them in the crisper drawer; they can last between one and two weeks this way.

If you notice any signs of spoilage, it’s best to use them immediately or preserve them by other methods.

  • In the refrigerator:
    • Lasts 1-2 weeks
    • Store in a plastic bag
    • Use crisper drawer

Preservation Methods

Jalapenos are one of those fruit that are possible to preserve. There are various methods to preserve jalapenos:

  • Freezing: Wash, dry, and slice the jalapenos, then spread them out on a baking sheet to freeze. Once frozen, transfer them to a freezer bag or airtight container. They’ll keep for up to a year.

  • Pickling: Combine vinegar, water, sugar, and spices in a pot and bring to a boil. Pour the hot liquid over your jalapenos in jars, then seal and process in a water bath. Or you can use a fermented method.

  • Drying: String whole jalapenos by their stems or use a dehydrator. Store dried peppers in airtight containers, away from light and moisture. psst…if you have extra dried jalapenos, chickens love them.

Remember, whichever method you choose, the goal is to maximize the shelf life of your jalapenos while preserving their flavor and heat.

Common Picking Mistakes

When picking jalapeños from your plant, avoiding a few common mistakes can greatly enhance your harvest’s quality and plant’s health.

Premature Harvesting

Jalapeños are typically ready for harvest when they are a deep green and about 3 to 4 inches long.

Picking them too early, when they are undersized or a lighter green, can result in less flavorful and spicier peppers. To ensure ripeness, look for a bright sheen and a firm touch.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here we’ll cover some specifics on how often to pick jalapenos, handle pests, and determine the perfect ripeness for various dishes.

Pepper Picking Frequency

You should inspect your jalapeno plants at least twice a week as they can ripen quickly in warm weather. Harvesting regularly encourages the plant to produce more fruit.

Dealing with Pests

To protect your jalapenos from pests, inspect your plants often.

If you see any signs of pests, such as holes in leaves or the peppers themselves, consider using insecticidal soap or neem oil which are effective and safe options.

Jalapeno Ripeness for Specific Dishes

For mild flavor, pick your jalapenos when they’re a deep green and firm to the touch—ideal for salsa or guacamole. If you prefer a sweeter, spicier taste, wait until they start to turn red; perfect for chilis and hot sauces.

Knowing when to pick jalapenos from plant will help you prepare the perfect dish.