If you love growing jalapeños for their addictive spicy kick, you may be wondering, “When should I pick my jalapeños to get the hottest peppers?”
The best time to harvest jalapeños for peak heat and flavor is when the peppers reach full maturity but are still green. This occurs about 60-80 days after transplanting seedlings outside. At this stage, they will be dark green and around 3-4 inches long.
In this complete picking guide, you’ll discover:
- Identifying when your jalapeños are perfectly ripe
- The optimal time to pick jalapeños based on color
- Tips for handling these hot peppers safely
- Ways to preserve your abundant jalapeño harvest
Let’s get growing and enjoy a bounty of tongue-burning jalapeños!
When Do Jalapeños Reach Maturity?
The first step is understanding the jalapeño growth stages. Here are the key timeframes:
- Jalapeño seeds germinate in 5-12 days when started indoors
- Transplanted seedlings mature in 60-80 days
- Full maturity is reached in 3-5 months after planting seeds
So you can expect to start harvesting ripe jalapeños about 2-3 months after transplanting seedlings outside. But when exactly are jalapeños ready for picking?
How to Tell When Jalapeños Are Ripe
It can be tricky knowing when to pick jalapeños based on appearance. Here are the signs to look for:
- Unripe jalapeños are light to medium green
- Dark green transitioning to red indicates ripeness
- Fully ripe jalapeños are vivid red
- Pick jalapeños when they reach 3-4 inches long
- Jumbo jalapeños may grow up to 5 inches before ripening
- Unripe jalapeños are crisp and firm
- Ripe jalapeños yield slightly to pressure
- Light brown markings on skin
- Shriveling stems
- Aroma – ripe jalapeños smell fresh and green
Use these visual and physical cues to determine when your jalapeños are ready for harvest.
When Are Jalapeños the Hottest?
For maximum heat, you’ll want to pick jalapeños that are fully mature but still green. The highest concentration of capsaicin occurs right before they start to redden.
Letting jalapeños turn red on the vine increases sweetness but decreases their spicy kick slightly.
For intensely hot salsa and poppers, harvest green mature jalapeños. The longer you wait, the sweeter they’ll become.
Picking Jalapeños at Different Stages
You don’t have to wait for full maturity to start enjoying jalapeños. Here are the stages you can pick at:
Harvesting jalapeños early when small and green results in a grassy, vegetal flavor. They’ll have a crunchy texture and mild heat.
Once jalapeños transition to a dark green with some red streaks, they offer a tangy, crisp taste with medium heat.
Ripe Red Jalapeños
Fully ripe jalapeños that turn completely red on the plant have the greatest sweetness along with intense spicy flavors.
Overripe jalapeños that stay on the vine too long will eventually become soft and wrinkled. At this stage, heat declines but sugars concentrate.
Look for jalapeños with your preferred balance of sweet vs. heat to determine the best picking time.
Handling Hot Jalapeños Safely
Jalapeños range from 2,500 to 10,000 Scoville units. While not the hottest pepper, they can still cause irritation. Follow these tips when harvesting:
- Wear gloves to protect hands and avoid transferring oils.
- Use scissors or shears to cut peppers from plants.
- Avoid touching eyes and wash hands well after handling.
- Use milk or yogurt to soothe skin if irritation occurs.
Also be sure to detach peppers gently to avoid plant damage.
Preserving Your Harvest of Jalapeños
Enjoy your bountiful jalapeño crop year-round by preserving them properly after harvest:
Flash freeze sliced or whole jalapeños in airtight bags or containers. They’ll last 4-6 months frozen.
Pickle jalapeño slices or rings for a tangy crunch. Pickled jalapeños stay crunchy in the fridge for 1-2 months.
Use a dehydrator or oven to dry jalapeños until crispy. Store dried flakes and powders in airtight containers.
Process chopped jalapeños in a pressure canner using safe methods for shelf-stable preservation. Canned jalapeños last 1-2 years.
With the right storage method, you can enjoy the spicy kick of jalapeños all year long after harvest.
Frequently Asked Questions
What’s the best time of day to pick jalapeños?
Harvest jalapeños in the early morning when peppers are coolest and most crisp. Avoid picking in the heat of the afternoon.
How long do fresh jalapeños last after picking?
Store freshly picked jalapeños in the fridge and they’ll last up to 2-3 weeks. Any longer and they’ll start to shrivel.
Can you ripen green jalapeños after picking?
Jalapeños may continue ripening from green to red off the vine if they have already started to change color before picking. Fully green jalapeños won’t ripen further.
Why do some jalapeños turn black?
Black or dark spots on jalapeños can be caused by sun scald, disease, or natural ripening of certain cultivars like black jalapeños. The black areas are harmless.
Now you know exactly when and how to harvest jalapeños at their peak hot, tasty best. With this complete growing and picking guide, you’ll be able to enjoy fresh, fiery jalapeños for months after the growing season ends.