4 Signs That Your Habanero Peppers are Ready for Harvest
The key to delicious habanero peppers is to harvest them at the right time. But how can you tell they’re ready for harvest? It can be confusing, but don’t worry! I’ve grown plenty of peppers before, and I’ll tell you all the signs that habanero peppers are ready for picking.
As a general rule, there are 4 signs that indicate habanero peppers are ready for harvest. Gardeners can determine these factors by checking for the peppers’ color, size, corking, and noting their growing time.
Habaneros are one of the spiciest peppers we have available, but it’s tricky to know when to pick them for eating. Keep on reading to learn how to check if your habaneros are ripe and ready for the taking!
Habaneros are initially green, but as they near maturity, they should change colors. Habaneros that have transitioned from green to orange are oftentimes mature and ready for harvest.
This is the easiest way of checking if your habaneros are ready for harvest. Peppers will start out green, but will change colors as they mature.
Orange habaneros can be notoriously slow to completely change in color at times. Simply keep an eye on your habanero peppers, and they’ll soon turn into a bright but mellow orange.
Ripe habaneros usually range from orange to red. But there are other varieties that produce brown, white, and even black peppers!
If you used a different kind of habanero, wait for it to develop the color that the variety you planted is intended to have.
In general, habaneros are ready to be harvested once they are fully grown, measuring around 1-3 inches (2-7.62 cm). The size of the pepper typically does not impact the overall spiciness.
Another good way to see if your peppers are ready is to check their size. Of course, not every fruit will grow the same, but this should help give you a general idea of their ripeness.
How big or small your peppers are shouldn’t impact how spicy they are overall. However, there does seem to be a pattern between varying pepper cultivars and varieties.
The smallest pepper, the siling labuyo, is 0.20 inches (0.51 cm) in length and can contain up to 100,000 Scoville heat units! That’s spicy.
In comparison, fully grown habaneros are usually around 1-3 inches (2-7.62 cm) long. At that size, they are most likely ready to be picked as well.
Habaneros that are closer to maturity may display signs of corking. When peppers grow at a faster rate than their outer skin can match, this results in superficial scarring, and is often a good sign that the habaneros are close to maturity.
When peppers grow at a faster rate than their skin is and leave marks, this is called corking. Peppers that are corking should be striped with light, vertical brown lines, or scars.
These scars are completely superficial and do not impact the taste or health of the pepper. In fact, some people even say this is good and that it means the peppers are spicier.
When you see habanero peppers corking, this serves as a good indication that the peppers are nearing maturity or are already ripe.
On average, habaneros require 90-120 days for the peppers to fully mature and become ripe. It is important to note that different factors, like watering, can affect the plant’s individual growth. Habaneros can be harvested as early as 90 days, and can be harvested past its required maturing period.
If you’ve grown these peppers by seed, you can check the seed packet to see how much time it needs. Habanero peppers take around 90-120 days to fully mature and turn orange.
This is best used as a general rule of thumb, though, since different factors can play into how quickly habaneros grow and ripen.
The earliest you can harvest them is as soon as you see the fruit drop and turn green, which may be around the 90-day mark. The latest you can harvest them is when 3-4 months have passed since you’ve planted the habaneros. These peppers are probably good to go.
However, make sure to pick them before temperatures drop below 35 °F (1.5C). Peppers are not frost-hardy at all, and you may lose them if they freeze.
Can I Pick Habanero Peppers While They’re Green?
Habaneros can be harvested even while they are green, and are completely safe for consumption. However, these peppers may not be as spicy, as habaneros typically require the completion of their growing stage for their spiciness to become more prominent.
If there’s frost coming soon, or if you’re just eager to try out the habaneros, you can harvest and eat them even if the peppers are still green.
Green habanero peppers are completely safe to eat and still tasty!
One of the beauties of growing peppers is that most peppers, if not all, can be harvested at any stage.
However, peppers are usually spicier the more mature they are, so if it’s spice you’re looking for, you might want to wait until they’re actually done growing.
Will Green Habaneros Ripen Off the Plant?
In general, habaneros that are harvested prematurely typically will not continue ripening off the plant. Pigments in the outer skin may eventually change into a different color, but the taste will remain the same and will not finish developing.
This is a good question. When talking about peppers, it seems that everyone I have encountered has said, “yes”.
But when you ask them about the flavors, they almost always admit that green peppers that have been ripened indoors don’t taste the same as peppers left to ripen on the branch.
Habaneros Do Not Mature Off the Plant
The truth? Habaneros do not actually ripen off the plant.
Peppers may sometimes change colors after harvest. But the flavors are usually not able to develop fully once they’re separated from the plant—they no longer receive the necessary nutrients.
The reason why green habaneros taste different from ripened ones is that they’re not ripe!
But if you’re just cooking with green habaneros to add extra color, this won’t be as important. Do whatever works for you!
3 Methods for Harvesting Habanero Peppers (1 to Avoid!)
There are 3 methods that can be used to harvest habanero. However, the last option is not recommended and may cause severe pain. Such methods include:
- Pinching with nails
You don’t need to be a rocket scientist in order to harvest these lovely peppers. But there are some things to keep in mind, and one thing in particular to avoid.
Here are different ways you can use to harvest your habaneros.
To safely pluck habaneros, the branch must be supported with one hand while the other hand gently pulls the peppers upwards by the base. This is ideal and highly recommended to prevent branches from snapping.
This is the most straightforward method you can use, hands down.
To harvest peppers by hand, you can gently pull the pepper by the base of the fruit.
Keep Habanero Stems on to Extend Shelf Life
You can also use your other hand to support the branch and pull the peppers in an upward motion, rather than tugging them down.
This is great if you have many pods growing on a singular branch, and you don’t want to risk any breakage.
Habaneros can be cut off the plant using a sanitized and sharp pair of scissors that is solely used for this purpose. Habaneros should be supported while scissors are used to cut the stem directly off the branch.
Another great method is to simply use a clean pair of sharp scissors.
For the health of the plant, it’s best to make sure everything is dry to lower the likelihood of your plant catching any type of disease.
Cup or hold the pepper in one hand, so it doesn’t fall to the ground, and cut the stem right at the base near the branch. It’s best to keep a separate pair of scissors for this purpose so as not to risk cross-contamination.
3. Pinching With Nails (Not Recommended)
The practice of using fingernails in cutting and removing habaneros off the plant is extremely hazardous and should not be done. Doing so makes it likely for capsaicin to enter the gap underneath the fingernail and will result in severe burning pain, which is why it is not recommended.
Some people choose not to use any other tools and will harvest peppers by pinching the stem with their fingernails. This is not recommended at all!
The peppers may not be ruptured, but juices can still leak out from the broken stems. This juice is high in capsaicin, an active chemical compound that gives peppers its iconic burning sensation.
If these juices seep inside your fingernails, which is very likely, this can lead to excruciating pain. This will be ridiculously hard, if not impossible, to relieve since it’s directly underneath your nails.
For the safety of our readers, I highly suggest using gloves when handling peppers, regardless of what process you use. More importantly, please don’t pinch off peppers with your nails.
Will Habanero Plants Keep Producing After Harvest?
Habaneros are a part of the perennial flowering family and will produce more fruits and flowers after the initial harvest, if kept in ideal conditions. How long the plant will keep producing peppers depends on a variety of different factors, such as climate. But most habanero will yield up to 50 peppers per plant every season.
Peppers are perennial plants and should produce multiple flowers and fruits over a long period of time.
How long and how often you get to enjoy these peppers depends heavily on when you planted it and what type of climate your plant is being grown in.
Some folks noticed their plants only produced less than a dozen peppers before wilting that same year, while others experienced more plentiful harvests from the same plant for multiple years. It all depends.
As long as the plant has a regular supply of nutrients and is raised in ideal environments, you should be able to harvest up to 50 habanero peppers per plant every growing season.
How to Save Seeds From Habaneros
Habanero seeds can be saved by cutting habaneros in half and squeezing the entirety of the seeds out into a container. Larger habaneros are ideal, and seeds must be dried and stored in sealed containers for further use.
Habaneros usually have loads of seeds inside them. Most people prefer not to eat this, so why not keep them to plant and enjoy even more peppers?
Larger habaneros should be used, as they’ll probably contain a higher amount of seeds. The peppers shouldn’t be green, and they should be completely mature for the seeds to be fully developed, otherwise they may have trouble germinating.
Some materials you would need would be a glove, a knife, a small bowl, and, of course, peppers.
- Cut the clean habanero in half.
- With a gloved hand, twist the cut habanero halves over the small bowl. With some effort, the seeds should all fall out.
- Dry the seeds out in the sun for a few days to ensure it lasts longer.
- Store the sun-dried seeds in an airtight jar or container.
If you’re worried about damaging any of the seeds, you can carefully open up the pepper to gather all the seeds without cutting into it. But this is tedious.
3 Ways to Store Habanero Peppers
The 3 ways that habanero peppers can be stored for long term usage are:
Since habaneros can produce up to 50 peppers per plant, you’ll probably find yourself with more peppers than you know what to do with. Don’t worry! There are ways you can store them for future use.
Habaneros that are to be used in the future can be placed in a dry, airtight bag and stored in the vegetable crisper of a refrigerator. Habaneros kept this way will shrivel over 1-2 weeks and lose their potency, and so they must be used immediately.
The easiest way to store habaneros is simply by placing them in the fridge. If you plan to use this in a week or two, this is a good option.
To refrigerate habaneros, place them in a sealed-off bag and keep in your crisper. The longer the peppers are kept here, though, the more likely they’ll lose their vibrant flavors, so use them quickly.
To store habaneros for long term use, whole or sliced peppers should be placed in a thick freezer bag or container. Air should be fully extracted to keep the peppers fresh, and the bags should be stored in a freezer. Frozen habaneros can last up to 9-12 months.
Freezing is a very effective way to store habaneros. If done correctly, frozen habaneros should last up to 1 year.
Store the peppers whole or cut up in a freezer bag before removing as much air as possible. A vacuum sealer can be used here to make this step easier.
But if you don’t have one, you can just insert a straw into the bag, close the freezer bag around it, and suck the air out. No extra money is required. Place it in the freezer and keep it dry.
Habaneros can be dried either by using an oven, drying them outdoors, or hanging them on a string. Depending on the method used, this process can ultimately take hours or weeks to complete. Habanero peppers that are dried should last for several years and can be used whole or ground into powder.
Another way of storing peppers is to dry them. Drying can be slightly more tedious, but the end result is worth it. Here are some of the ways peppers can be dried.
1. Using the Oven
To dry peppers, cut the peppers lengthwise and dry them in an oven using the lowest temperature.
A dehydrator is a good option as well. This can take several hours, though.
Keep in mind that heating the peppers will help them release their peppery fumes, and will be irritating to the eyes and will be difficult to breathe. Always have the room well-ventilated.
2. Placing Them Outdoors
A less suffocating method you can use is to place the peppers whole on a tray and dry them out in the sun.
This can take days, but this won’t give off any pepper fumes. Make sure the peppers are cleaned afterward and do not have any dirt or insects.
3. Hanging Them on a String
Alternatively, you can also thread some string through the stems of the habaneros and hang them in an area exposed to air and sunlight.
This may take numerous days or weeks to fully dry. Sun-dried peppers last for years, and if kept in an airtight container, should still retain their flavor. You may also grind it into powder.
What color of habanero pepper is the hottest?
The Red Savina pepper is a famous cultivar of habanero peppers that comes in a deep and bright red. It had a heat level of up to 250,000 Scoville heat units. It was declared the world’s hottest chili and held this record for 12 years.
Why are my habaneros not turning orange?
Habaneros often take long periods of time to ripen, and may sometimes need more time. However, if habaneros are not changing color after many weeks, this may be due to a severe lack of nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus.
Summary of Signs Habanero Peppers Are Ready for Harvest
Habanero peppers are ready to be harvested when they turn from green to orange, are approximately 2-3 inches big, are displaying vertical corking stripes all over, and when it has been 3-4 months since the peppers have been planted.
Habanero peppers can be harvested by plucking them off the vine or cutting them off with a clean pair of scissors. After harvest, habanero peppers can be stored either through refrigeration, freezing, and drying.
- “Capsicum chinense” by n/a in University of North Carolina
- “Growing Peppers in a Home Garden” by n/a in University of Maryland Extension
- “Ethylene of no effect – why peppers do not mature after picking” by Dr. Alisdair Fernie and Claudia Steinert in Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology