Chillies are harvested in late summer and autumn. For the proud chili grower, it is his fifth, fiery season of the year. But when exactly are the pods ripe for picking? The right time determines the quality of the harvest.
Harvesters of Tabasco chilli peppers for the famous chilli sauce are given a red wooden stick for the field. You hold this on to the Tabasco pods to see whether they have reached the perfect degree of ripeness from the red coloring and the diameter.
There are thousands of different types of chillies that have different ripening times. You can’t plan day X long in advance to start harvesting. Nor do we have generations of experience with the Tabasco chili like the boys from Avery Island.
But it won’t be hard for you to choose the perfect time. These tips will make it easy for you.
There is a little help for a rough estimation. On the one hand the variety description and the experience of other chili breeders. Many pods start to change color after 70-100 days. The chillies do not begin to change color until the seeds are completely formed inside.
For a better estimation of the ripening time, take a look at the seed pack. Usually this is indicated here. Many variety descriptions on the Internet also provide information about the duration of the ripening period. So you can read that de Cayenne ripens after about 80 days.
The time can only be accelerated by a lot of heat, light and fertilizer with little nitrogen. The fertilizer may contain more phosphate and potassium.
Some chilli varieties are harvested green. For example Jalapeño, Serrano and make Rocotos. Usually, however, only when they have ripened to their actual colour. In the last days their aroma intensifies and a certain sweetness is added.
If you leave the pods ripened too long on the plant, edible pods will no longer look as fresh and crunchy.
Chillies first discolor at the top of the crown. If we get impatient, we take a closer look here. If the chilli starts to change color here, it will be red, orange or yellow after a few days, depending on the variety.
If the chilli has changed color, we usually wait 5 days before picking. We give it the time to produce more fructose and capsaicin for the pungency. Longer than 10 days we do not let them hang, so that still further blooms and fruits are formed.
Before we start cutting off the chilli peppers, we try some chillies and consider whether they have already built up a perfect aroma. Jalapeños taste better green with paprika and have a typical sour taste. In Habaneros we love the fruity aroma, which we usually leave to ripen longer on the plant. By trying them we determine the perfect time for the harvest. Sorry if this is too easy now. Unfortunately, we do not know a more precise method.
Once the pods have been picked, they do not ripen or hardly ripen at all.
The best way to cut the chillies is to use harvest scissors.
This should be narrow at the front so that the branches can be handled without effort. Separate the stem in the first third so that two-thirds remains on the pod.
Look forward to the recycling of the pods. They are fresh, hot and tasty. Use as much fresh as possible. Cook chili con carne, mix salsas and cut them for salad and pizza.
You can also preserve the harvest by drying, freezing or preserving the chillies.
Dehydrators are perfect for drying chillies, peperoncini and habaneros. If the harvest is not so big, the drying can be done without problems in the oven.
Part of the harvest is frozen here. At the same time healthy vitamins and minerals are well-preserved. Unfortunately the chili loses its firm structure. This does not matter when it comes to boiling.