These spicy peppers can be difficult to grow, so learning how to pick them is important for reaping the rewards of your hard work. What’s more, with these chili peppers being rich in vitamins A and C, as well as potassium, they make excellent additions to your vegetable garden ideas, and picking them at the right time can make all the difference between a bitter, underdeveloped pod, and a tasty, albeit spicy, addition to a wide range of dishes. These unsuspecting peppers are great for planting in May, ready for your summer dishes. Here, learn how and when to pick jalapeño peppers from your garden.

When to pick jalapeño peppers  

Much like when to pick bell peppers, there are a few signs that jalapeños are ready to pick. ‘Whether you’re making fajitas, a curry, or throwing them on a pizza, jalapeños are a great way to add a kick to your meal,’ says Samantha Richards, garden expert at Gazeboshop (opens in new tab). ‘Their size also gives a good indication as to when they’re fully primed,’ continues Samantha. ‘A fully-grown jalapeño pepper should be around three to five inches in length. Generally speaking, this can take between four to six months. ’ The jalapeño’s green coloring is the best way to tell if the pepper is ready to pick or not. As the peppers mature, they will develop from light green to dark green – signifying they are perfect for picking. This stage is reached traditionally around five to six months after planting, or around 60 to 80 days after transplanting.  Although jalapeños are usually picked before they turn black or red, allowing the peppers to turn red can increase the pepper’s heat and sweetness.  Another clear sign that jalapeños are ready to pick is corking. These small white lines on the pepper’s skin develop as the pepper grow rapidly from small pods to their full size and are perfectly safe to eat. 

How to pick Jalapeños  

Picking jalapeños is easy but should be done with care to prevent damaging the plant.  ‘Picking jalapeños is much like picking other fruit from pepper companion plants in your vegetable garden,’ explains Rachel Crow, garden editor at Homes & Gardens. ‘Hold the plant’s branch below the pepper and pull the ripe pepper upwards. Holding the plant still prevents shaking the plant and causing unnecessary stress.  ‘Jalapenos should come away from the plant easily with a snap. You should avoid twisting or tearing the stem if you want your plant to continue producing fruit.’  You can also use pruning shears if your jalapeños are not coming away from their stems easily. ‘The pepper when ripe will be firm to touch and should pull off the plant easily, if you have to tug it, it’s still growing,’ Samantha warns.

What happens if you pick jalapeños too early? 

If you pick jalapeños early, they will be crisper and offer a bigger crunch when eating but might not have their characteristic spice. Jalapenos can continue to ripen off of the plant, however, they will not be able to reach their spiciest red stage.  Some growers pick jalapeños early to prevent overripening, or to use in pickles, like when picking cucumbers.