The mild yet tasty anaheim pepper is a very easy-to-grow perennial that originates from New Mexico. For a limited amount of effort, you could be rewarded with up to 3 years of peppers from one seed.
But the trickiest part of their lifecycle is pinpointing exactly when to pick anaheim peppers. To help identify this, you will need to consider the level of heat you want to achieve and what you want to use them for. So, whether you are after a crisp, green anaheim to top your summer salads, a red anaheim to make mild Mexican sauces or perhaps you want a glut of peppers ready to pickle and preserve I will help you understand what to look for to achieve your aims and any other tell-tale signs they are ready to pick to maximise your yield.
Harvesting Anaheim Peppers Outdoor Vs Greenhouse
The anaheim pepper is a versatile plant that once established will be productive for three years, sometimes more.
In a warm climate, they will thrive outdoors and you can plant seedlings once the risk of the last frost of Spring has passed. You can then expect them to take around two and a half months to reach peak maturity so you should be able to enjoy peppers from late summer onwards. If kept outside you will then need to overwinter your plant to allow it to enjoy a second lease of life the following Spring.
If you live in one of our cooler States it is advisable to use a greenhouse to cultivate your peppers. This environment will allow you to plant up seedlings earlier and still be harvesting peppers into the Fall.
Anaheim does well in pots and this method will give you ultimate flexibility when growing. You can move the pot outdoors to maximise the summer sunshine and then move it back into the greenhouse once temperatures start to plummet. You may find your plant continues to produce fruit for you year-round if your greenhouse remains warm enough over the cooler months.
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When Are Anaheim Peppers In Season
Anaheim season is technically from July to September. They take around 80 days from planting seedlings (after the last frosts) to the point of full maturity. Some pepper varieties can take up to 150 days. However, as anaheim is a perennial plant, if kept in the right conditions you can extend this season significantly and potentially be harvesting peppers all year.
Anaheim Pepper Growing Stages
- Germination The germination of Pepper seeds typically takes between 7-15 days depending on the environmental conditions. Typically peppers have a long growing season so in cooler climates it’s often necessary to start them off early indoors.
- Seedlings Throughout the seedling stage the small plants will be prone to attack from slugs and snails. They will also be prone to dampening off if conditions are too humid. Thin them out as they develop, with approximately 18 inches between plants.
- Vegetative Growth The plant will grow, producing multiple stems and offshoots as it develops into a bush-shaped plant. After 8 weeks the plant will reach maturity.
- Flowering Pepper plants produce a large number of flowers prior to vegetative maturity. Flowering can begin after just 3 weeks of vegetative growth and will continue right through the season. I recommend you pinch off flowers until around 6 weeks, and allow the plant to focus its energy on vegetation.
- Setting Seed Finally as the flower head matures the plant will set to fruit and continue doing so across a long period, typically around 8 weeks.
Tips On Growing Anaheim Peppers
- Anaheim peppers are tender vegetables, so you will need to wait until the soil is warm and frosts have passed to move the seedlings outdoors.
- If you are planting seeds directly into the ground they prefer sandy loam soil with a pH between 7.0 and 8.5. You will need to plant each seedling around 20 inches apart to allow them room to bloom and grow.
- They also thrive in pots and this method will give you ultimate flexibility to move your plant around, allowing you to maximize the summer sun and keep them producing in the cooler months.
- Irrigation is an important part of anaheim pepper care. You need to water the pepper plants regularly during the growing season and keep the soil moist. If the plants don’t get enough water, the fruit can become stunted.
- It is a delicate balance though as overwatering can lead to root rot and other fungal issues. You can expect your plants to reach around 1.5 feet tall and to start producing peppers after around 2 months.
- The peppers should reach full maturity and be ripe and red after 80 days but if you want to harvest some younger green peppers, they may be ready for picking earlier.
What Does a Ripe Anaheim Pepper Look Like
Once your anaheim peppers are around 7 inches long and 2 inches wide you will know the time has come to start harvesting them. They will initially start out dark green in colour. These peppers will have a fresh, crisp taste and are perfect for use in salads.
They will then go through a spectrum of colours changing to a patchy black through to a ripe red. The red colour is an indication the capsicum in the membrane is fully developed so you will find a red pepper has more heat and flavour. It still only ranks at the very low end of the Scoville Scale though, between 500 to 2000SHU, akin to a poblano pepper or a very mild jalapeno. I like to use them as a slightly more flavoursome version of bell pepper in my cooking.
How To Harvest Anaheim Peppers
Anaheim peppers are ready to pick when they have reached their full size of approximately 7 inches. Use a knife or shear to clip or cut peppers from the plant rather than pull them off. Pulling them off can damage the plant. You should also leave the stem in place on the fruit as this will keep it fresh for longer. Be sure to harvest peppers as soon as they are ready, as this will encourage the plant to produce more.
It is advisable to wear gloves and avoid touching your face after picking them as they have capsicum in their skin. Although it is a much more manageable level than peppers further up the Scoville Scale, any leaking capsicum oil, regardless of its strength can be an irritant.
Will Anaheim Peppers Turn Red After Picking
If you want to achieve a ripe, dark red anaheim that has the maximum heat level you should always leave them to ripen on the vine. But if you have cause to pick them sooner, they will ripen off the vine if stored in a warm dry environment.
A pepper that has already started to change from green to red will be more likely to continue that process off the vine whereas it will be challenging for a newly emerged pure green pepper to ripen that much off the vine as the capsicum will struggle to fully develop.