Wondering when to pick Habaneros? The short answer: Habaneros are usually ripe and ready to be harvested 75 to 110 days after transplanting when they’re vibrant orange or scarlet red and 1 to 3 inches long. This guide goes even deeper into harvesting so you know when to grab these chilies for the flavor and spice level you want.
The Habanero is the first hot pepper plant I grew many years ago. I quickly learned: pick Habaneros too early, and they might taste bitter and mild – leave it too late, and you risk these chilies dying and falling off the plant.
While Habanero peppers are generally at their hottest around 110 days after transplanting, what if you want less heat, or you need to harvest your peppers early? And what if you’re growing different Habanero varieties?
You’ll find all the answers (and more) in this article. Let’s begin!
When To Pick Habaneros From The Plant
The Habanero pepper starts off green and takes about a month or more to turn orange or red, depending on outside conditions.
If you like your Orange Habanero peppers at their hottest (like me) with that characteristic floral kick, here’s what to look for before harvesting.
habanero pepper harvest time
Days To Maturity: 75 to 110 days after transplanting, depending on the Habanero variety
Appearance: Darker orange in color, 1 to 3 inches long, and a shiny (waxy) skin
And what if you’re growing something other than the Orange Habanero? Different varieties ripen at various times — here’s what to note for the following popular types of Habaneros.
|Habanero Variety||Ripe Color||Days to Harvest|
|Chocolate Habanero||Rich Brown||110+ days|
|White Habanero||Creamy Yellowish White||100+ days|
|Red Habanero||Bright Crimson Red||90+ days (Red Savina, Caribbean Red)|
|Golden Habanero||Orangish Yellow||90+ days|
|Peach Habanero||Creamy Peach||75+ days|
If your Habaneros don’t seem to be turning orange, it could be because it’s too cold outside for them to ripen properly.
You may see scars on Habaneros — these are essentially stretch marks that form due to the rapid growth of the pepper. While they might look like imperfections, they’re a sign that your peppers are ripening as they should.
If you pick Habaneros from the pepper plant too early, they’ll be less spicy and more vegetal tasting. Harvest them later, and they’ll be extra hot and a deeper red color.
Unripe peppers are perfect if you prefer a milder flavor. Besides being less spicy, Green Habaneros taste more earthy and slightly bitter compared to the orange chilies.
Like mature peppers, green peppers are used in hot sauce, salsas, marinades, chutneys, and anywhere else you’d like some heat! Green Habaneros, in particular, are also enjoyed in Yucatán recipes like Chile Tamulado.
As for when to pick Habaneros green, that’s a matter of preference. I like to wait for the pepper to grow to its expected size, then watch for it to turn a shinier green before harvesting.
And sometimes you have no choice but to pick your Habaneros when they’re still immature – for example, if you know there’s a frost coming, or you want to be able to grab all your peppers at once.
Fortunately, you can usually ripen green peppers off the plant. Just pop them somewhere warm — ideally at least 70°F (21°C) — in a sunny spot. If your peppers aren’t changing color after four days, they probably won’t ripen, so use them up quickly before they wrinkle.
How To Pick Habanero Peppers
So what’s the best way to pick Habanero peppers? You can use a couple of methods so that you don’t damage the plant.
I like to keep things simple and harvest Habanero peppers without tools. Hold the branch with one hand, and pull the pepper off with the other.
If you want to be extra careful to avoid damage, you can cut the ripe peppers off with clean scissors or pruning shears. And watch that capsaicin burn — wear gloves or wash your hands after harvesting before touching your face or eyes.
An Habanero plant keeps producing even after you start picking the peppers (until it gets too cold). If cooler temps are coming, harvest early – they’ll still turn orange or red after picking, as long as you keep them in a warm, sunny area.
Should Habanero Peppers Be Picked As Soon As They Ripen?
You might wonder if you should harvest peppers all at once, or pick them when they’re ready. Either harvest method works — here are some reasons why you might do one over the other.
If you pick Habanero peppers as soon as they’re ripe, it encourages more peppers to grow — win! The downside is that you might only get a couple peppers at a time.
On the other hand, picking Habaneros at the same time gives you that bigger harvest. You’ll get some greenish peppers, but you can eat these immature Habaneros or ripen them indoors.
If you decide to leave your Habaneros on the plant longer, the red, ripe peppers take a couple of weeks before they start to wrinkle — be sure to pick them before then!
What I do: My peppers are picked as soon as they’re ready. I also wait an extra day or two because (to me) they have an even better flavor and heat.
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What To Do With Habanero Peppers
Habanero peppers can be over 100 times hotter than the mildest types of Jalapeno, so get ready for the heat! Fortunately, fresh Habanero peppers back up this fire with flavor, making them perfect for so many uses.
For example, you could use fresh Habaneros in a fiery hot sauce, chop them up and throw them into a tasty salsa, or use them to liven up a stir fry. Or, pickle your Habaneros to top pizza (yum!) or snack on later on.
Another option is to dehydrate your Habaneros and grind them into a chili powder. Then use this insane deliciousness to spice many dishes, from curries to fajitas.
And if you also enjoy fiery cocktails, you can even use Habaneros to make mouthwateringly spicy habanero margaritas! Just mix them with tequila, Patrón Citrógne and a dash of lime juice, and shake over ice.
Storing Habaneros 3 Ways
The best way to store Habanero peppers is dry, in a paper or plastic bag, then pop them into your refrigerator veggie drawer. If you keep them whole, Habaneros should last a couple of weeks after picking.
If you’re not using your peppers within two weeks, you can freeze your Habaneros for up to eight months. Wash and dry your peppers first, then dice them (if you have time), or leave them whole before putting them in a freezer bag.
» Read More: When to Pick Peppers (& How) + Storing Your Chillies
You can also dehydrate your Habaneros for use in salads and chili powder, or to rehydrate another time. Just make sure they’re clean and dry, then put them in the oven at 150°F (66°C) for 2 to 3 hours, or pop them in a dehydrator at 120°F (50°C) for 6 to 12 hours. Once dehydrated, peppers can last for a couple of years.
habaneros on the counter
How long can Habaneros sit out? If you have fresh, uncut peppers, you can leave Habaneros on the counter for up to a week in room temperature. Habaneros, like other peppers, start to wrinkle and get dark spots when they go bad.
Saving Habanero Seeds
After picking your delicious Habanero peppers, save some of those seeds to grow more! Harvesting seeds is a matter of choosing the right peppers and knowing how to store the seeds until planting.
For the best results, aim to take seeds from the most mature Habanero peppers — the ones that are bright orange (or other ripe colors) and deep red. If you take seeds from green Habaneros, they might not germinate, or the resulting plants might not turn out great.
Once you have your fresh Habaneros, put on gloves and cut the peppers down the middle. Scrape the seeds over a plate, then leave the seeds to dry out for a couple of weeks.
» Read More – Saving Pepper Seeds: How to Harvest Your Chillies
To keep your pepper seeds in good condition, store them in a dark, cool place. You can keep seeds in plastic containers, zip-lock bags, or seed bags to stay good for up to three years.
Not only will you save money on seeds, but you’ll know that you’re growing good-quality Habaneros. 😀
habanero cross pollination
If you grow different types of peppers near your Habaneros, cross pollination is possible due to insects and wind. Harvesting seeds from cross-pollinated plants means the resulting fruit might grow differently in color, shape, or taste. This isn’t a bad thing, though — it can be a fun experiment to see what you end up with!
So, now you know when to pick Habaneros – when they’re ripe and between 1 and 3 inches long, up to 110 days after transplanting. Harvesting is generally once a week, but hot and dry temperatures (and the end of the season) will have you picking them more frequently.