Harvesting and storing chilis correctly: it’s all about timing

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Harvesting chilis has to be learned! If you like your chilis to be very hot, do not harvest too early, but also not too late! We do not just show you how to recognize the best time for harvesting. We also explain how to harvest your hot peppers in CHARLY CHILI correctly.

👉 Nearly all chili fans ask themself during ripening season: when are my hot peppers ready to harvest? When do they reach the optimum heat level and how can I detect that?
When growing your own chilis, you deserve fiery and fruity spiciness, which depends on the optimum ripening level and the correct harvest.

Mild to fiery hot - the ideal heat level?

Their legendary heat is formed in the walls and seeds of the fruit and has a genetic basis, which is defined in the various different chili diversities. But there are also enormous fluctuations depending on the growing conditions like soil, climate, irrigation and timing of the harvest.
Basically there are 7 substances (=capsaicinoids) responsible for the heat, which are developed inside (= in the placenta) of the fruits. The earlier the chilis are harvested, the less of these substances were generated. That's why the hot peppers do not taste that hot as required.
According to studies 'Pequin-Chilis' reach the peak of heat units 40 days after fructification, 'Habaneros' only after 50 days (these values apply for the origin of these varieties, Mexico). At our moderate climate you must lengthen this value for some more days or rather weeks to reach the peak. If the chilis do not get harvested in this time slot, the content of capsaicinoids decreases and the chilis lose some heat.

💡 DId you know that even chilis from the same plant can have different heat units? The chili peppers on the lower part of the plant are the hottest 🔥 On the upper part the chilis are less hot.

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Red or green?

'Jalapeno' peppers are typically harvested when they are green and firm for fresh use or for canning. 'Anaheim,' 'Serrano', 'New Mexico', as well as bell peppers, are also harvested when they are green. The interesting thing is the completely different aroma, which red chilis develop in comparison to harvesting them green. In this case it is a question of taste, at what ripening point you want to harvest your chilis.
🟡 Varieties like 'Yellow Hot Wax' and 'Hungarian Wax' only ripen to yellow and are not meant to be harvested green

When is the right time for harvesting?

The enormous diversity of varieties definitely make it difficult to name a blanket ripening duration. But a look into the internet always reveals helpful informations to every chili variety. Chili lovers all over the world collect and share their growing experiences and ripening duration in different climates.

The best timing for harvesting is therefore determined by the desired heat level and the aroma. The consistency is another factor that provides information about the optimum harvesting slot and is closely linked with the 2 named factors. If you are harvesting green chilis like Jalapeño, Anaheim, Serrano, New Mexican and Poblano you can easily feel, if the chilis are ripe. Are the fruits firm, but you can still push them a little bit togehter, than they are ready to harvest. Unripe chilis are completely filled with texture and seeds in the inside. That's why they are completey firm. In this case your hot peppers definitely need more time to ripen.

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Similiar to red, yellow and orange tomatoes, the coloring of chilis always provides reliable information about their ripening level. The peppers always get colored first at the crown (top of the fruit). From here the coloring goes down to the bottom of the chili, until it is evenly colored. If your fruits are in that state, you should generally wait another 5 days before picking.

💡 Preferably harvest a little bit later, than too early: maybe your peppers loose a little bit of heat, but ripe, red chilis win a lot of sweetness, frutiy aroma and carotin. Different to tomatoes, chilis DO NOT ripen further after harvesting. Any risk of the first autumn freeze in sight, then punctually harvested chilis definitely taste better than the ones with frost damage.

What do dark areas mean?

Do not worry about small dark colored areas on your chili peppers. As long as the skin of the fruits is still smooth and even you can use the chilis without any doubt. The fruits just store anthocyane in their cell walls and membranes as protectection against sunlight. That's literally their way to moisturize with sunscreen and happens especially when the plants have builded fruits before they were exposed to intense sun light. Or also in summer when the gardener removes a leaf, which protected the fruit against sun. Sometimes these so called anthocyanes reduce, but mostly the dark coloring stays. So, red ripening fruits get red , but the dark areas stay a little bit darker.

How to harvest chilis correctly

You are still not sure, when your chilis are ready to harvest? Then you can also try a chili. Does it already have the desired aroma? Then you can also start harvestesting the other ones:
Harvest peppers during dry weather by cutting them from the stem, rather than picking them, which can break the stems and damage the plants. Use a sharp knife or garden scissor for cutting. Cut the stem approx. in the middle and better leave a little bit more stem linked to the fruit.

Step-by-step to your chili harvest:

  • mind the given ripening duration and the the color of the planted variety
  • ripe chilis are not completely firm any more, so you can push them a little bit
  • wait until completely and evenly colored
  • after that state wait another 5 days until harvesting
  • try one chili before you harvest all
  • only harvest by cutting the stem with a knife or scissor
  • cut the stem in the middle between fruit and plant
  • do not worry about dark areas, they are normal
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Where to store my hot peppers?

Hot peppers are full of water and decay or dry out rapidly. Don't wash them after picking, but brush any dirt off them. Fresh harvested chilis feel best in the refrigerator. But note that you should never place them in a closed bin. Condensation water and following mould would be builded very quickly. Better store them lose in the refrigerator. When stored this way, they should last for two or three weeks.

If you want to preserve chilis for longer, than you can easily freeze them. So the vitamins and minerals stay in the fruit. You can also cut and portion freezed chilis easily with a knife. So you can cut exactly the needed amount for any dish and freeze the rest of the chili again.

❗ Hot peppers have volatile oils that can burn your eyes and skin. Always wear rubber gloves when handling or cutting hot peppers❗