When and How to Harvest Jalapeños


Jalapeños are fantastic for cooks of all levels to have at their fingertips because of their great flavor and ability to spice up any dish. So, planting them in a garden makes a lot of sense. These spicy peppers are little, but they can be a big challenge to harvest, if not done correctly.

Jalapeño peppers are ready to harvest when they’re four to six inches long. It usually takes three to four months for Jalapeños to grow big enough for picking. When picking a Jalapeño, it’s important to hold on to the branch before pulling the pepper off, so the whole plant isn’t jostled or damaged.

If you’re unsure about when to pick your Jalapeños, this article is for you. If you’re pretty sure they’re ready to harvest, but you’re not sure about how to harvest them, this article is for you, too.

When Is the Best Time to Pick Jalapeño Peppers?

The very first question you’ll run into while growing a Jalapeño plant is when you’ll be able to pick the pepper off the plant and make use of it. Jalapeño peppers grow somewhat like a tomato; the Jalapeño pepper pods hang down of the plants many branches.

These peppers usually take three to four months to grow to a size usable for food and befitting your taste buds. During this period it’s important to keep your eyes open and use your hands to really determine the exact point when your peppers will be ready to harvest.

Peppers that are ready for picking are typically four to six inches long and firm around the middle. Checking to see if your Jalapeños match this size is a good way to make sure you don’t prematurely pick the pepper before it is ready to be eaten.

Five Key Ways to Tell When a Jalapeño Is Ready to Be Harvested

You can use the following five key characteristics to determine whether or not your Jalapeño peppers are ready to be harvested

Age

As mentioned above, its important not to harvest your Jalapeño peppers until your plant is around three to four months of age.

Length

The ideal length for Jalapeños to grow before they are ready to be picked is four to six inches long.

Thickness

You can use the pepper’s thickness to determine if it’s ready to be picked. Peppers that are bigger and firmer in the middle are generally ready to harvest. Generally speaking, a fat looking Jalapeño is a delicious one.

Color

Jalapeño peppers are ready to be harvested when they are deep green in color. But, if you want your peppers to be extra spicy, then you might want to wait until they turn a brilliant, hot red.

Corking

Most chefs and knowledgeable home cooks know that when a Jalapeño starts developing tiny little cracked lines vertically along the pepper, which is referred to as corking, they are ready to pick. Corking is effectively your Jalapeño pepper getting stretch marks and occurs when the Jalapeño pepper pod grows faster than its skin. These peppers tend to be a bit spicier, so if you want mild Jalapeños you should plan to harvest them before they cork.

Pro Tip: Jalapeños that aren’t quite done growing will usually be hard to pull off the plant. If you find yourself met with resistance when you give your peppers a tug, then wait a few days before trying to harvest them.

Jalape_o_Pepper_Lines (4)
Jalape_o_Pepper_Lines (4)

When Should I Pick A Jalapeño If I Want It to Be Spicier? When it’s Green or Red?

While most people eat them when their green in color, Jalapeños can turn black, red or darker shades of green. Jalapeños when first ripe are green in color. The longer you leave it on the plant, the pepper will transition to black and then eventually to red.

Black and red Jalapeño peppers are still edible, but they tend to have different flavors compared to the green variety. Jalapeños that have turned red are usually spicier than green ones, which tend to taste milder.

If you want a milder Jalapeño, take it off the plant as soon as it is four to six inches in length with good thickness. If you’re looking for a spicier tasting Jalapeño, you can wait for it to turn into a rich red color.

Should I Pick A Jalapeño When I See It Crack or Cork?

As Jalapeños grow, it’s easier to see how mature they are by stretch marks or cracks on the skin, which is referred to as corking. Jalapeños that have corked are considered to be at their peak ripeness and are usually picked shortly after the corking begins.

In the U.S., Jalapeños are often picked before corking happens because the peppers don’t look as pristine and many consumers prefer to pick the glossier, non-wrinkled ones when shopping at the supermarket. But if you want your Jalapeño to be as ripe as possible, then it is a good idea to wait till you see corking before you harvest them.

One noticeable difference between corked and non-corked Jalapeños is that corked Jalapeños tend to have thicker skins.

How Long Does It Take Jalapeños to Ripen?

How long it takes a Jalapeño to ripen depends somewhat on what kind of Jalapeño you want. If you’re looking to grow the spiciest Jalapeños, then you should wait for them to ripen until they become a rich red color, and so the time before you can harvest them will be longer than if you’re looking to eat a milder, crisp green Jalapeno.

The typical growing time for a green Jalapeño is roughly 70 to 85 days from planting, depending on how you grow them.

Since Jalapeños are warm weather crops, the peppers that are started off growing indoors rather than outside are more likely to grow faster, especially in climates with cooler winters. Plants that are started off growing outside are more likely to take four months to grow.

How to Properly Pick a Jalapeño Off the Plant

Jalapeño plants fruit continuously in the right conditions, meaning that after a pepper has been picked, the plant can produce more peppers to be picked later on.

Because of this, it’s important to be careful while you’re picking your Jalapeños so as not to damage the plant.

Once you have identified a pepper that is ready to be harvested, gently hold the branch of the plant right above the pepper so you won’t shake the whole plant while picking it. Then push the pepper upwards, allowing the pepper to snap off of the branch where it’s hanging.

A ripe pepper should come off cleanly. If you’re struggling to take the pepper off, wait another day or two. You want to avoid any twisting or tearing to protect the branch.

What If I Pick a Jalapeño Too Soon?

It is always best to pick a Jalapeño just as it is getting ripe. Picking the pepper when it is underripe, however, does not mean that the pepper becomes unusable.

Jalapeños can still ripen after they have been picked. If you put the pepper in a windowsill where it can get a lot of sunlight, the pepper will ripen into an edible product.

The bigger problem with picking a pepper too soon is that you’ve most likely damaged the Jalapeño plant by picking a pepper that wasn’t quite ready.

If the plant was severely damaged, you might not get any more Jalapeños off of it, or at least of the branch of the underripe pepper.

What If I Pick a Jalapeño Too Late?

Picking a Jalapeño at just the right time can be tricky, especially if you are going after a specific Jalapeño type.

Waiting too long on a green Jalapeño can lead to the Jalapeño turning red. While the red Jalapeño is still edible, it will be sweeter and spicier than a green Jalapeño.

The even bigger risk is waiting on a red Jalapeño. If you wait too long to pick a red Jalapeño, the pepper may spoil. While the pepper might suffer from being on the plant too long, the plant should still be fine and produce more peppers.

Conclusion

Raising a Jalapeño plant can be a tricky business. While it is fairly easy to tell when a Jalapeño is ripe, getting the pepper off the plant at just the right time to get the best taste can be difficult, depending on your preferences.

Ultimately, if you are paying attention to your plant, you should get great tasting Jalapeños that can add spice and flavor to you cooking endeavors.

Here are Some of my Favorite Gardening Products and Tools

Thank you for reading this article. I hope you found it helpful for growing some new plants in your home or garden. Here are some products I like that I hope you’ll also find helpful. These are affiliate links, and I am compensated for referring traffic. But in all honesty, these are the exact product that I use or recommend to everyone.

Soil: For high-quality soil, I really like Fox Farm Ocean Forest. I do all my growing in containers and this soil has worked great for me. I like how they use nutrient-rich contents like earthworm castings, bat guano, and composted crab and fish.

Fertilizer: Currently I am using a seaweed-based organic fertilizer call Neptunes Harvest. This is a great milder fertilizer option if you want to use something organic. If you want a more powerful fertilizer, I recommend Fox Farm Liquid Nutrient Trio, lots of people have had great growing success with this product.

Pruning Shears: Pruning shears are one of the most useful gardening tools to have because it’s important to prune your plants to keep them healthy. The pruning shears I recommend are the Gonicc 8’’ pruning shears. I like them because they are built sturdy and work both on bigger and smaller plants, so you don’t need to have multiple pruning shears.

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Supriya

Hi! I'm Supriya. I'm a home cook, bulldog mom, spicy food lover, and founder of The Spicy Trio. I have been a home cook for about 15 years and have been growing plants for the past six years.

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