Cayenne Peppers

Growing Cayenne Peppers? Don’t Pick Until You Read This!

If you love spicy food, you may be growing cayenne peppers. But when should you start picking those hot little guys?

The ideal time to start harvesting cayenne peppers is 70-90 days after transplanting seedlings into your garden.

Cayennes start off green and ripen to a rich, red color when fully mature. Waiting to pick until the peppers reach their deep red hue ensures peak flavor and heat.

In this article, you’ll discover:

  • The signs to look for so you know your cayennes are ready
  • Pro tips for harvesting without damaging plants
  • How to store your bountiful cayenne pepper harvest

Getting the harvest timing right is crucial to enjoy cayennes at their best. So let’s dive in and get you prepped for a successful crop of fiery peppers!

An Intro to Cayenne Peppers

Cayenne Peppers

Before we get into harvest time, let’s start with what exactly cayenne peppers are.

Cayenne refers to a group of super-spicy chile peppers in the 30,000 to 50,000 Scoville range. They are slender, curved pods that ripen to red.

These bad boys pack some serious heat, making them perfect for:

  • Spicing up salsas, chili, etc.
  • Turning into cayenne powder or flakes
  • Adding heat to hot sauces
  • Helping clear sinuses – who needs medicine?

And don’t worry – along with the burn, you get a nice fruity flavor. Cayennes are crazy versatile for livening up all kinds of dishes!

How to Know Your Cayennes are Ready for Picking

Timing is critical when harvesting cayennes. Too soon, and they’ll be mild with poor flavor. Too late, and they get soft and mushy.

Luckily, Mother Nature provides some clear signs your cayennes are at peak ripeness:

Check That Color

Cayennes start off green and ripen to a rich, vivid red. Wait until peppers turn completely red with no traces of green before picking.

Feel for Firmness

Ripe cayenne skin should feel taut and crisp when gently squeezed – no soft spots. Mushy pepper = overripe no-no.

Look for Shine

A nice sheen on the skin means peak ripeness. Cayennes ready for harvest look glossy, not dull or matte.

Test the Tip

Press on the pointed tip – it should be hard and rigid. Spongy tips need more time on the plant.

Snap Decision

Try gently snapping off a pepper. If the stem breaks cleanly, bingo – cayenne picking time!

Do the Sniff Test

Give those spicy beauties a sniff. Ripe cayennes smell fresh, fragrant and grassy.

Now let’s talk about when to start checking for those signs!

Exactly When to Start Harvesting Cayenne Peppers

Here’s a timeline so you know when your cayennes transform from green to glorious red:

  • Days to maturity: 70-90 days from transplant.
  • Color change begins: Around 60-75 days, early signs of reddening.
  • Ready to harvest: 70-90 days after transplanting, when fully red.
  • Peak season: Maximize your ripe cayenne yield by timing harvests for mid-late summer.
  • Stagger picking: Harvest early ripeners, let later ones continue to redden on the plant.
  • Last call: Pick all remaining peppers before first expected autumn frost.

Armed with that info, let’s get into pro pepper picking pointers!

Expert Tips for Picking Cayennes Like a Pro

You nurtured those spicy babies all season – now harvest them with care! Follow these pro tips:

  • Pick on a dry, sunny day to keep peppers dry after harvesting.
  • Use scissors or pruning shears for a clean cut – don’t yank.
  • Wear gloves! Cayennes can irritate skin and eyes. Don’t touch your face after handling.
  • Gently twist/rotate peppers to remove from branch without damage.
  • Use both hands – support the plant with one hand while picking with the other.
  • Place immediately into vented basket or bag, don’t pile up.
  • Leave the stems on for longer fresh storage life.
  • Check plants daily once reddening begins – cayennes ripen quickly.
  • Remove any damaged/diseased fruits ASAP to prevent spreading.

Now the fun part – enjoying your spicy bounty!

The Many Uses for Harvested Cayenne Peppers

Cayenne peppers add spicy zip to:

  • Salsas
  • Hot sauces
  • Chili
  • Seasoning blends
  • Marinades
  • Sauces like buffalo wings sauce

You can also:

  • Turn them into cayenne powder – just dry and grind into spice powder.
  • Pickle cayennes for longevity – they make great spicy pickles!
  • Add slices to pizza, tacos, soups, eggs, etc.

Let your imagination run wild with recipes once you’ve mastered growing and picking cayennes!

Storing Your Cayenne Pepper Harvest

Cayennes don’t keep forever once picked – follow these storage tips:

Short Term Storage

  • Refrigerate unwashed peppers in perforated bags – they’ll last 1-3 weeks.

Long Term Storage

  • Freeze peppers for 4-6 months – wash, slice, and freeze in airtight bags.
  • Pickle peppers in jars using vinegar recipes for extended shelf life of 6 months.
  • Dehydrate into crispy peppers – keep in airtight bags for up to 1 year.
  • Can or jar peppers for shelf-stable preservation up to 1 year when done properly.

Now that you’ve got the inside scoop on picking the perfect cayennes, get out there and start harvest those hot peppers! Just remember to wear gloves. 😉


How big do cayenne pepper plants get?

Cayenne plants grow 2-3 feet tall and 1-2 feet wide in bushy, upright plants. Give each cayenne transplant 18-24 inches spacing in the garden for good air circulation and sunlight penetration.

What are some common types of cayenne peppers?

Popular varieties include Red Cayenne, Purple Cayenne, Cayennetta, Long Slim Cayenne, Cayenne Large Red Thick, Early Cajun Cayenne, Big Chile II Cayenne, and Cayenne Golden.

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Bill Kalkumnerd
Bill Kalkumnerd

I am Bill, I am the Owner of HappySpicyHour, a website devoted to spicy food lovers like me. Ramen and Som-tum (Papaya Salad) are two of my favorite spicy dishes. Spicy food is more than a passion for me - it's my life! For more information about this site Click

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