Chilis richtig ernten & lagern: Timing ist alles

Harvest and store chilies correctly: timing is everything

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Harvesting chillies needs to be learned! If you like your chilies really hot, you shouldn't harvest your pods too early - but not too late either. We'll show you how to recognize the best time to harvest and how to properly harvest your home-grown pods in CHARLY CHILI.

👉 Almost all chili lovers ask themselves the question at some point during the ripening phase: When should I harvest my chilies? When is the best level of spiciness reached and how do I recognize it?
If you grow your own chilies, you of course want to achieve their fiery, sometimes fruity spiciness and this is largely linked to optimal ripeness and the right harvest.

Mild to fiery hot – the right level of spiciness?

The spiciness of chilies is of course primarily determined by the respective variety and is therefore genetically determined. However, there are huge variations due to soil, climate, irrigation and the timing of harvest.

Basically, 7 substances (= capsaicinoids) that develop inside the pod (= in the placenta) are responsible for the spiciness of the chilies. The earlier the chilies are harvested, the less of these substances they have developed and the milder your pods taste.

According to studies , Pequin chilies peak around 40 days after fruiting, while Habaneros reach peak levels after 50 days. (These test values ​​apply to the homeland of these varieties, Mexico). In our temperate climate, you can easily add a few more days or weeks to maintain the peak value. If the chilies are not harvested within this time window, the capsaicinoid content will slowly decrease and they will lose their spiciness.

💡 Did you know that even chili peppers from the same plant have different levels of spiciness? The fruits on the lower part of the plant are often the hottest 🔥 The spiciness decreases slightly towards the top.

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Red or green?

Of course, some types of chili are also harvested and eaten green (e.g. jalapeño, serrano, New Mexican or sweet pepper). What's exciting is the completely different aroma that the red-colored pods develop compared to the green ones. In this case, it is definitely a matter of taste when you want to harvest your pods or what color you like them better.

🟡 Varieties like Yellow Hot Wax and Hungarian Wax only ripen yellow and should never be harvested green

When is the time ripe for the harvest?

Due to the incredible variety of popular pods, unfortunately it is not possible to specify a general ripening time. However, it is always worth taking a look on the internet. Chili lovers around the world collect their experiences about the respective variety on many different sites and the correct harvest time in our climate zone can be easily found.

The right harvest time is mainly determined by the level of spiciness and the desired aroma. The consistency of the pods is directly related to these 2 factors. If you are already harvesting green peppers such as jalapeño, serrano, New Mexican and poblano, you can easily feel when they are ripe by touching them : if the chilies are firm but give a little when pressed, you can harvest them. Immature pods are still completely filled with tissue and immature seeds inside, so they do not give way. In this case, give your chilies some time to ripen.

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As with tomatoes, the color of the chili in red, yellow and orange varieties also provides reliable information about the degree of ripeness of your fruit. Chilies always first change color at the crown of the pod, from there the coloring moves downwards until they are completely evenly colored. As a rule, you should now be patient for about 5 days before harvesting your fruits.

💡 It's better to harvest a little later than too early: the pods may lose some of their spiciness, but the ripe red chilies gain enormous sweetness, aroma and valuable carotene. Unlike tomatoes, chilies do NOT ripen after harvest. But if the first autumn frost is already imminent, green chilies that are harvested on time definitely taste better than chilies that have suffered frost damage.

What do black spots mean?

If you notice small dark discolorations on the pod, don't let that put you off. As long as the skin is still smooth and intact, these chilies are still edible. The fruits simply store anthocyanins in the cell walls to protect themselves from sunburn. This is basically their method of “creaming” themselves. This is particularly common with young plants, for example when fruits have already formed before they have been exposed to strong sunlight or in midsummer when the gardener suddenly removes a leaf that previously provided shade. Sometimes the anthocyanins are broken down again, but usually the dark color remains, so that e.g. B. red ripening fruits, although they become red, remain darker where they were dark.

How do I go about harvesting?

If, despite all the information, you are not 100% sure whether you should harvest your chilies yet, you can of course find out by tasting them. Did the pod create the perfect aroma for you? Then it's time to harvest the remaining pods:
Chilies should never simply be broken off. The risk of injuring your pods would be too great. It's better to use secateurs or a sharp knife. Now cut off the stem approximately in the middle between the pod and the plant. It's better to leave a little more of the stem on the pod than on the plant.

Step-by-step to harvest chili:

  • Note the specified ripening time and color of the variety
  • ripe chilies give slightly when pressure is applied
  • Wait for complete, even coloring
  • Then wait another 5 days until the harvest
  • Tasting before the entire harvest
  • only harvest with scissors or knives
  • Cut the stem in the middle between the pod and the plant
  • black spots are normal

Where are chili peppers stored?

Freshly harvested chilies feel best in the refrigerator. Just make sure NOT to store the pods in a closed container. Condensation and subsequently mold would quickly form here. If left open in the fridge , your pods will last for several weeks.

If you want to make chilies last longer, we recommend freezing the whole pods. This means vitamins and minerals are well preserved. Even when frozen, the pods can be cut relatively easily with a knife. This means you can cut exactly the right amount for each dish and freeze the remaining pod straight away.

❗ If you want to process your chilies fresh , make sure to always wear gloves when using hot varieties❗Hot pods contain essential oils and fumes that can irritate your eyes and skin .