Wondering when to pick Jalapenos? These peppers are typically harvested when they’re dark green and about 3 inches long. You can also collect Jalapenos when red if you want a sweeter flavor. And, if you’re growing different varieties or want to pick Jalapeños at their hottest, here’s how to tell when they’re ready.
Knowing when to harvest jalapenos is tricky because they’re usually plucked off the branch in the same color they start off in. Plus, they don’t always look like the peppers you find in the store.
So how do you know when to pick Jalapenos? You’ll start by looking at the green color — dark or light — and also note the size.
But, what if you’re growing different Jalapeno varieties? Or, maybe you prefer to pull them when they’re likely to be hot or mild.
We’ll answer all of these questions (and more) so you can harvest Jalapenos at the right time for you.
First, let’s go into the growing timeline so you have an idea of when to pick jalapenos off the plant.
Jalapeno Plant Stages
Around 8 weeks old, you typically move your jalapeno seedlings outside or buy starter plants (transplants) that are about the same age. At this stage, the jalapeno pepper plant is around 4 inches tall with a few sets of true leaves.
Next, comes the phase when the jalapeno plant is 2 to 5 months old. This is the time when the plant grows taller, bushier and starts producing flowers before the pods come.
Finally, you can expect to start harvesting jalapenos when they’re about 5 to 6 months old. This is generally about 60 to 80 days after transplanting them outdoors.
This jalapeno timeline can be affected by outdoor weather like heat waves or drops in temperature.
When To Harvest Jalapenos At A Glance
Here’s when to pick jalapenos for the typical jalapeño pepper variety.
Days To Maturity: 70 to 85 days from transplanting outside
Appearance: Firm, dark green pods; 3 to 4 inches (7 to 10 cm) long
For peppers, “days to maturity” refers to the amount of time it takes to start picking Jalapenos after they’ve been growing outside.
Below, you’ll find more harvest information for popular jalapeno varieties.
When To Pick Mammoth Jalapenos
The Mammoth Jalapeno is a large variety commonly used for stuffing.
Days To Maturity: 72 – 77 days
Appearance: Large dark-green pods with a smooth, thick flesh; 4.5 inches (11 cm) or longer
Purple Jalapenos: When To Pick
The ornamental Purple Jalapeno variety starts off green, turns dark purple and eventually ripens to red.
Days To Maturity: 85+ days
Appearance: Dark purple pods (almost black peppers); 2 inches (5 cm) long
Early Flame Jalapenos
The Early Flame Jalapeno plant grows peppers that are ready for picking sooner than other varieties.
Days To Maturity: 70 – 75 days
Appearance: Deep green, shiny pods; 3.5 to 4 inches (9 to 10 cm) long
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When To Pick Mild Jalapenos
If you’re looking for less heat, pick the younger jalapenos off of the plant. These immature peppers are smoother, are a lighter green color and don’t have any corking (little stretch marks).
If you prefer mild to no-heat Jalapeno peppers, pick varieties like the Mammoth Jalapeno, TAM Jalapeno pepper or the heatless Coolapeño pepper. You can get seeds for many of these varieties on the Etsy online marketplace.
When a Jalapeno pepper grows so fast that the skin has to stretch, little tan lines called “striations” or “corking” appear. These striations may seem like the pepper is past its prime, but it’s actually a good sign that the pepper is ready to pick and has heat. [source]
How Do You Pick Jalapenos Off The Plant?
When harvesting peppers, don’t yank them off the plant because that can break the branch and detach peppers that haven’t finished growing. Here are some quick steps on how to pick Jalapenos without damaging the plant.
- Locate the Jalapenos that are likely to have the heat level you’d like. Light green Jalapenos tend to have a milder flavor, and dark green pods with striations usually have a more spicy heat level. You can also select red, ripe Jalapenos for a sweeter taste.
- Hold the branch that has the Jalapenos you want so you can support it when plucking peppers.
- Use your other hand to pull the Jalapeno pepper up so that it comes off easily with its stem. You can also use garden shears to cut the pepper off the stem.
Pick Jalapenos often so your plant can produce more fruit. If you wait for all the peppers to ripen before harvesting, it slows down the growth.
Will Jalapenos Ripen After Picking?
If you can’t wait for Jalapenos to ripen on the plant, you can pick them so they go through the stages of ripeness off the branch. Traditional Jalapeno varieties go from bright green to a darker green, to very dark (almost black) and finally red.
Jalapenos, like other peppers, can ripen indoors on a windowsill or countertop. It helps if the area is at least 70°F (21°C) for quicker results.
If it’s the end of the season, another option is to cut off a branch with immature Jalapeno peppers. Hang the branch upside down indoors, or stick it in water to speed up ripening.
Ripening Jalapenos off the vine can take a few days to a couple of weeks. It depends on ambient temperatures and whether the Jalapeno has already started changing color.
Although Jalapenos ripen after picking, they don’t continue growing in size. This is also true for red Jalapeños still attached to the plant.
Some believe that you can ripen peppers faster by storing them in a paper bag with a mature tomato. (The tomato emits an ethylene gas that promotes ripening.) According to UC Davis, Jalapenos don’t respond to this ethylene treatment like other chile varieties.
When Are Jalapenos The Hottest?
Soil moisture is another factor in chile heat. You can let your potting mix dry out more between watering peppers to stress the plant and really crank up the intensity.
Jalapeno variety also plays a big part in the heat. If you want spicy, choose varieties like Billy Biker Jalapeno, Mucho Nacho Jalapeno, Zapotec Jalapeno and the Ghostly Jalapeno (a cross between the Jalapeno and Bhut Jolokia).
I’ve read that jalapenos can get hotter in the refrigerator. I haven’t noticed this myself, but you may want to leave a few chillies in the fridge for a couple of weeks to see how it goes!
Do Jalapenos Get Hotter When They Turn Red?
If you’re wondering about the spiciness of green jalapenos vs red jalapenos, you’re not alone. Some people believe that red is hotter, but I say that it depends.
If Jalapenos are allowed to ripen to red on the plant, they tend to be sweeter rather than hotter. On the flip side, if a jalapeno is green and it turns red after picking, the pepper has more heat in this red stage.
Individual taste buds and pepper variety are big factors in whether the red jalapeno has more heat. If you want to know when to pick jalapenos at their hottest, I suggest harvesting them in the dark green stage when they have some corking.
What To Do With Jalapenos After Harvest
If you have a big Jalapeno harvest, you’re probably wondering how to make sure they stay good until you’re ready to use them. Here are three common ways to preserve your chillies for different timeframes.
- Refrigerator: If you’re going to eat the Jalapenos in two weeks, you can place your unwashed peppers in a sealable bag and store them in the vegetable drawer.
- Freezer: You can store your Jalapenos in the freezer for up to eight months. [source] Just wash & dry them, and then place whole peppers in freezer bags. You can use frozen Jalapenos in soups and stews, or thaw your peppers on a paper towel to use as fresh peppers.
- Food Dehydrator: Dehydrated peppers last up to a year. Cut your washed Jalapenos into even pieces, and spread the slices on dehydrator trays without overlapping them. Dehydrate at 125°F (52°C) for 6 to 12 hours until your peppers are leathery for rehydrating later or brittle for grinding into powder. Store your dry peppers in sealable containers out of the sun.
Harvesting Jalapenos FAQs
Again, the timing of when to pick jalapenos depends on when you’ll enjoy the flavor and heat level the most. I hope this article gives you the information you need to start harvesting at the right time for you!
If you’re growing other chilies, be sure to check out the pepper harvesting guide for when to pick all kinds of sweet, mild and hot pepper varieties.
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