How to Harvest Serrano Peppers (And 4 Signs They’re Ready!)
Although serrano peppers are some of the most common peppers to grow, some gardeners still have trouble knowing when and how to harvest them. The good news? It’s much easier than you think!
To harvest serrano peppers, use gloves and clean scissors to prevent damaging the plant. Carefully hold the peppers and cut their stems against the branch. Prevent disease by cutting the plant only during dry days and inspecting peppers for damage.
Serrano peppers may be edible at any stage but we still want to make sure we harvest them at the right time! Don’t worry. In this article, we answer all your burning questions!
5 Easy Steps in Harvesting Serrano Peppers
Gardeners can easily harvest serrano peppers by:
- Grabbing a clean pair of shears or scissors.
- Wearing gloves to protect your fingers from pepper juice.
- Holding the pepper fruit so it doesn’t fall to the ground.
- Cutting the stem right against the base of the branch.
- Repeating the process for each pepper.
Serrano peppers can produce up to 50 peppers per plant, so harvesting them can take quite some energy!
Though they can also be harvested by plucking, you can speed up the harvesting process by cutting the peppers off with your trusty garden shears.
Just remember to avoid harvesting your peppers during a rainy day to prevent your plant from catching any sort of disease, like tobacco mosaic virus, from infected splashes of water. While you’re harvesting them, you can inspect the peppers for insects and damage.
After harvesting your peppers, all you have to do now is wash them clean. Then, they’re ready to eat! Serrano peppers are great served raw and are often used in salsa.
>> Growing peppers? Here’s our article on the 4 signs habaneros are ready to harvest.
4 Factors to Check When Harvesting Serrano Peppers
Serrano peppers are typically ripe and ready for harvest after 60–90 days when they are 2–4 inches long, corking, and begin to turn green or red.
So you’re eager to harvest those peppers. But how do you know when it’s time? Don’t worry, here’s some of the easiest factors you can check to see if they’re ready for harvest!
Serrano peppers are typically ripe and mature after 90 days from transplant. Green serrano peppers can be picked in 60 days. They can also be allowed to ripen and turn red after 80 days.
Serrano peppers are usually ready for harvest after 3 months or 90 days after planting. In fact, they’re one of the fastest growing peppers, which is one of the reasons why they’re so popular!
The earliest time you can pick a serrano pepper is around the 60-day mark, while they are still green.
If you like your peppers red and fully ripened, though, wait until at least 80 days have passed. This is the best time to pick them before they start to spoil.
You can also refer to the seed packet to see the maturity rate as stated by the seller, if any. This is especially important if you planted any unique variety of serrano peppers, like yellow ones.
But as always, keep in mind that different factors can affect how quickly your serrano peppers grow, such as watering, fertilizing, and sun.
Serrano peppers that are 2–4 inches long and ½ inch wide in diameter are typically close to ripeness or are already ripe and ready for harvest.
To see if your serrano peppers are ready for harvest, measure their size. Mature serrano peppers are usually around 2 to 4 inches long.
As an added measure, you can also check the size of your plant. Established serrano pepper plants are often around 3–4 feet but can reach over 5 feet (1.52 m) tall.
If the plant is this tall and is producing serrano peppers roughly 2 or 4 inches long, they’re probably ready for harvest.
Corking, or tan vertical stripes on serrano pepper skins, are a sign of ripeness so peppers with corking can be harvested. This scarring is a result of peppers growing faster than the skin and does not affect the taste.
Corking in peppers is very similar to stretch marks. If you can see light stripes running on the skin of your serrano pepper, this is because the pepper is growing faster than the skin.
This corking is usually a good indicator that the pepper is close to or is already ripe.
Moreover, the scarring from speedy pepper growth is only superficial.
Serrano peppers should also feel firm in texture and not mushy if they’re ready for harvest.
Serrano peppers are always initially green and will change colors as they mature. Green serrano peppers can be harvested before the skin develops redness. Red serrano peppers are a sign of full maturity and are ready for harvest.
Last but certainly not least, we need to talk about color. This is the easiest and most obvious way to identify what stage a pepper is in and when you can harvest it.
Regardless of what pepper variety it is, the plant will always produce fruit that’s initially green. Serrano peppers are usually picked when they are green, so it may be tricky trying to see if they are ready or not.
It’s ideal to harvest green serrano peppers right before they turn red, as the pepper will be more mature and have a deeper flavor.
If you’d like to harvest red serrano peppers or even yellow ones, simply wait for the pepper to slowly change into whatever color you desire.
4 Simple Ways to Store Serrano Peppers
There are 4 ways to successfully store serrano peppers:
Although these peppers are best eaten raw and fresh, that doesn’t mean you can’t save and enjoy them at a later time. Especially when you have so many peppers left over!
Continue reading to learn how you can best store your serrano peppers.
Place serrano peppers in a dry and airtight plastic bag inside the fridge. Serrano peppers that are refrigerated will last an average of 2 weeks before losing flavor.
Keep your washed serrano peppers in a sealed plastic or paper bag and store it inside your fridge. Make sure the peppers are dry to prevent them from rotting and turning mushy.
This hardly requires any effort and is the easiest way to store serrano peppers. However, you’ll want to use these peppers within 1–2 weeks while the flavors are still strong!
Serrano peppers can be frozen to last up to 1 year. If too large, serrano peppers can be sliced or stored whole in a freezer bag free of air and kept in the freezer. Peppers can later be thawed for use but are not likely to retain their texture.
To freeze peppers and store them for up to a year, you can either keep your peppers uncut or cut them into manageable slices to place in a freezer bag.
If you don’t have a vacuum sealer handy, you can always suck the air out of a zip-lock bag with a straw and seal it shut.
This is a great way to store peppers for the long run. But keep in mind the peppers are usually softer after thawing. The flavor and spiciness will remain.
Dried serrano peppers can last for 2 years or more. Serrano peppers can be dried in the oven or dehydrator. Prevent pepper fumes from releasing by drying the peppers out in the sun and storing them in an airtight container.
This process is much more extensive than the others but keeps serrano peppers the longest.
Dry your peppers either by using a dehydrator or an oven. The oven may be more convenient but this will almost definitely release pepper fumes, so do this with eyeglasses and in a well-ventilated room!
This food dehydrator here on Amazon is easy to use and great for drying peppers.
A safe and easy way to dry peppers would be to place them on a tray or plate and allow it to sun-dry. Ensure all the peppers are visible and not crowded or covered.
Depending on how sunny it is, the serrano peppers should be all dry and shriveled up after a few days or weeks. Sun-dried peppers can last for years, especially if you keep them in an airtight container afterward!
Pickled serrano peppers can last for 6 months. Place whole or cut serrano peppers in a brine of white vinegar, sugar, and garlic and store in a sealed 1-quart jar. Keep refrigerated.
Pickling is a great way to help store serrano peppers for a decent amount of time. This is my go-to method for storing peppers because of how easy and delicious it is!
To pickle serrano peppers, gather the following:
- 1 pound (0.45 kg) of sliced serrano peppers
- 1 ¼ cup of white distilled vinegar
- 1 ¼ cup of white or brown sugar
- 2-5 sliced garlic gloves
- ½ cup of water
In a clean 1-quart jar, simply dump in your chosen sugar and pour in the white vinegar.
Screw the lid back on tightly and shake the contents until the sugar is completely dissolved. You may also stir it if it’s easier.
Once the sugar has dissolved, you can carefully pour your sliced serrano peppers and garlic into the jar. Pour the water in and make sure there is at least half an inch of space left in the jar.
Put the lid back on and shake well. You can let the serrano peppers sit in the brine for a stronger flavor but you can eat this right away!
Store in the fridge and enjoy it for at least 3–6 months or until you run out.
3 Types of Serrano Peppers
There are 3 major serrano peppers available in the market:
1. Green serrano peppers
2. Red serrano peppers
3. Yellow serrano peppers
Serrano peppers, like many other plants, have different color varieties. Here are some of the most common types of serrano peppers you can enjoy.
1. Green Serrano Peppers
Green serrano peppers are commonly sold in stores and are crisper than other serrano peppers. These peppers are ideal for pickling and have a milder flavor.
Green serrano peppers can range from a light green to a very deep green.
They can still be spicy but will not be as bold or as deep in flavor compared to other color varieties.
However, green serrano peppers are more crisp and great for pickling, which we will discuss later on.
These serrano peppers are the most common and can be found in any grocery store. Some serrano pepper cultivars include hot rod hybrid, fire serrano, and hidalgo.
2. Red Serrano Peppers
If left to mature, green serrano peppers will eventually turn into fully ripened red serrano peppers. Red serrano peppers are stronger in flavor but lower in crispness and are more susceptible to bruising due to their thinner skin.
Red serranos are green serrano peppers that are fully mature. However, they differ in color and texture. These serrano peppers may be less crispy but they often have a much stronger flavor than green ones. This is because they are fully ripe, compared to younger green serrano peppers.
It’s best to eat these red serrano peppers immediately. Due to their softer skin, they bruise easily and may not last as long as green serrano peppers.
3. Yellow Serrano Peppers
A different variety of its own, the only difference yellow serrano peppers have from other serrano peppers is their appearance. Yellow serrano peppers are yellow when ripe and taste the same as other serrano peppers.
The yellow serrano pepper is its own separate variety, so don’t expect regular serrano peppers to turn yellow!
When ripe, the peppers will turn into a bright, sunny yellow.
In comparison to most other serrano peppers, there is little difference in taste and spiciness when it comes to these yellow serrano peppers.
Yellow serrano peppers taste just as good as regular serrano peppers. Because of their unique color though, they’re commonly used as a garnish.
What’s the difference between serrano peppers and jalapeño peppers?
Serrano peppers are thinner than jalapeños and have a slight curve to them. Serrano peppers also contain 10,000 to 25,000 Scoville Heat Units and are twice as spicy. Jalapeños are thicker and less spicy compared to serrano peppers.
Do serrano peppers ripen after picking?
Many peppers, including serrano peppers, will sometimes change colors after being removed from the branch. However, studies have shown that peppers do not continue to ripen after being harvested, even after being exposed to large amounts of ethylene.
Summary of Harvesting Serrano Peppers
Harvest serrano peppers with gloves and a sterilized pair of scissors by cutting at the base of the stem. Harvesting must be done on sunny days to prevent disease from entering freshly cut stems.
Serrano peppers are generally ready for harvest after 60–-90 days when peppers are 2–-4 inches long and ½ inch wide, display corking, and turn red or dark green. Then, once can store serrano peppers by refrigerating, freezing, dying, or pickling them in a jar.
- “Pepper” by Robert J. Dufault and Nancy Doubrava in Clemson University
- “Pepper Production” by Lynn Kime, Jayson K. Harper, Elsa Sánchez, and Thomas Ford in University of Pennsylvania State