Harvesting Jalapenos: When and How To Pick Properly

We all have to start somewhere! At some point, you’re going to be a total newbie when it comes to growing peppers. As such, it’s vital that you get some expert advice about when you should be picking them.

Wait, aren’t they just like any other peppers? Well, not exactly - these spicy harvestables grow at a pretty slow pace, and it can also be rather hard to gauge whether they have finished growing.

Thankfully though, you don’t need to keep on guessing. Instead, we have every answer that you may need in this very article. We’re going to show you all of the steps in order to ensure that you harvest jalapenos correctly.

This is both simple and easy to do, so long as you have the right information at your disposal. Stick around, and you’ll soon be confident that you are an expert at growing jalapenos. 

When Should I Pick my Jalapenos?

It can seem really difficult to know when to pick jalapenos, especially if you have never done it before. Thankfully though, there are actually a number of things that can tell you it’s time to harvest your jalapenos.

Here’s a quick tip: if your jalapeno is firm to the touch, looks like a mature red or green color or it measures roughly 3 to 5 inches long, it’s a good indication that they are all ready to go.

Now, it’s important to note that the color can vary based on the age of the jalapenos. You can certainly wait to pick them until they’re red, but in general most people will end up picking them before they reach this point.

Ripening Stages

It’s usually pretty obvious in some respects that your jalapeno has ripened if you pay close attention to the color. You should check the peppers during the growing season, since you will start to see the color of the peppers changing.

They’ll start off around light green, then they will darken slightly. Eventually, they will turn a very dark green that almost looks black in color, before they become a bright red colour.

The vast majority of people tend to pick jalapenos a little before they become red. With that in mind though, the jalapenos will both be sweeter and hotter if you let them become red. This tastes spectacular if you dice it up and stick it in some delicious salsa.

On the other hand, there are many gardeners that will pick the jalapenos even earlier, when they are green.  These peppers are crunchy and crisp, and it makes them perfect for pickling.

That’s not the only sign that your jalapeno is ready to pick, however. You should also look at the size of the pepper before harvesting it. Your jalapeno can start off as a tiny bud the size of a pea, but it can grow as big as 3-5 inches long when it’s ready to be harvested.

Now, the length can differ depending on the type of pepper that you’re growing, and the growing conditions can also influence how big it grows. For instance, you may find that you have much smaller peppers if they haven’t been properly exposed to the sunlight. They may also take more time to grow to full size.

You can also see if the peppers are ready because they will develop corking. What is corking? Well, they’re basically little white lines that will grow on the skin of the pepper. In fact, you can eat these little lines and many pepper lovers look for this particular quality when on the hunt for great quality jalapenos. 

When Will Peppers Be Ready for Harvesting?

So here’s the question. Is it time to pick the peppers yet, or is it still too early?

Well, that can depend. To put it simply though, if the pepper has reached its maximum growth and has matured to the right color, then it’s a good indication that you can harvest the peppers. You are welcome to allow it to grow for a little longer though to let it mature even more, but this is a personal decision.

Want our advice? It’s usually best to harvest the peppers once they reach the color that you are looking for. This will mean that the plant is able to create even more peppers throughout the remainder of the season, giving you a more bountiful harvest.

It’s not a good idea to allow the peppers to stay on the plant for more time than is strictly needed, as it can mean that the other, younger peppers on the plant won’t grow as quickly. This also means that you’re getting smaller harvests in the future. You need to make every effort to maximize your yields, after all.

The Best Way to Pick Jalapenos

Now you know that your peppers are ready to be harvested. Now what? Well, it’s time to pick those peppers! This is incredibly easy to do, but you need to be cautious. Be gentle when picking the peppers, as you don’t want to accidentally damage the jalapeno plant. If you aren’t sure how to safely pick your peppers, here are some guidelines. 

1. Find the Peppers

As we’ve already established, there are a number of signs that your peppers are ready for the picking. There’s no need to pick a pepper that isn’t ready to be harvested. If it’s ready to go, then harvest it!

2. Grab the Plant Gently

Take one of your hands and very gently grab onto the branch of the plant. This should be a branch right underneath the pepper, since you don’t want to disturb the rest of the plant when you are trying to get the pepper down.

3. Pull on the Pepper in an Upwards Motion

You will tend to find that your jalapeno is hanging downwards, and the bottom will be facing the ground. These plants have curved stems coming from the pepper’s top to the stem. As such, you will need to pull the pepper upwards in order to detach it from the plant. 

4. Break Away Cleanly

You shouldn’t have to yank, tear or twist the pepper. If it’s ripe then it should come off easily, with no need to damage the plant. Gently pull the pepper off the plant.

If you would prefer, you can also cut the jalapenos off using a pair of scissors or specifically made pruning shears.

Can my Jalapeno Look Red In Color?

You may have had a shock when you went out to harvest your jalapenos - it’s become red! Is it even possible to eat these jalapenos - is it safe? It can be quite the shocking sight to see your green jalapeno suddenly becoming red.

Thankfully for you, there’s absolutely no need to worry. A jalapeno will usually turn red after it’s had additional time to ripen. Pretty much all standard jalapeno peppers become red after a time if you let them completely ripen. It tends to happen in the later stages of the pepper’s growth.

Some people prefer their peppers to be red instead of green. If this sounds like you, then all you need to do is allow them to remain on the plant for a longer amount of time. It’s worth noting though that you should harvest the jalapenos sooner if you think that a frost may be coming, as this can damage your peppers.

Will my Jalapenos be Hotter if they are Red?

This is a pretty common question. Will your jalapeno burn your tongue off if it’s red? They certainly look more spicy thanks to the color, so what gives?

Actually, a lot of jalapenos are a little spicier than their green counterparts. This is because leaving a pepper to age for longer allows them to produce more capsaicin, which makes them spicier. Since a red pepper is older than a green one, it stands to reason that it will be spicier.

Jalapenos can sometimes continue to ripen off the plant if they were starting to turn red at the moment of harvesting, but they will not redden if you picked a pepper that was under ripe. You can also speed up the ripening process by putting the jalapenos in a closed brown paper bag.

How Can I Remove My Jalapeno Plants?

You may be thinking that it’s time to toss the plants away after the season has finished. In reality, this may not be necessary. 

Now, of course you can just toss them away into your compost. They are biodegradable and organic, after all. Alternatively you can allow them to stay in place throughout the winter, but you will need to prune them a lot to ensure that they are safe. You’ll then need to keep them alive for a while indoors. Most people prefer not to do it because it can be challenging to overwinter a jalapeno plant. 


So that was everything that you needed to know about harvesting jalapenos. It’s fairly simple as long as you know what you’re doing. Now you can harvest your spicy peppers with plenty of confidence!