If you were asked to picture any type of pepper it is highly likely you will recall an image of a bell pepper. With the mildest level of spice and an enviable list of nutritional qualities, it is no wonder they are the most commonly grown pepper across the world.
However, knowing when to pick a bell pepper can be a tricky question as it will depend on what color, flavor, and level of ripeness you are aiming to achieve. I will talk you through the growing and ripening cycle to help you pinpoint the right time to harvest according to what you hope to achieve.
- When To Pick Bell Peppers Outdoor Vs Greenhouse
- What Does A Mature Bell Pepper Look Like
- How To Harvest Bell Chilis
- FAQ’s When To Harvest Bell Peppers
When To Pick Bell Peppers Outdoor Vs Greenhouse
The bell pepper season falls in the peak summer months but the exact time to harvest will depend on when you planted them and if they are outdoors or in a greenhouse.
Outdoors are at the mercy of the elements but in a good season, they should reach maturity approximately 60-90 days after planting your seedlings. A greenhouse will allow you to better control growing conditions so your crop should be ready on schedule, and it will also mean you can extend your growing season, so you are still harvesting peppers in the early winter months.
When to pick also depends on what you want to use them for. You will initially be gifted with earthy green bell peppers but if left to ripen you will be able to harvest a much sweeter crop of colorful bell peppers.
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When Are Bell Peppers In Season
If we consider the full growing cycle, bell pepper seedlings should be planted once night frosts have passed, generally in mid-Spring. Plants will then take 2-3 months to start bearing fruit which takes us to the height of summer so July to September is the peak season for bell peppers. You can extend this either way with the use of a greenhouse.
The bell pepper season typically runs from July to September but using a greenhouse will extend this either way.
Another tip for harvesting bell peppers is to pick them up as soon as you are ready to use them. Never let fully ripened peppers sit on the plant for longer than they need to as they may start to rot once they are fully ripe.
Harvesting bell peppers triggers the plant to continue producing more fruits for you. I previously picked a crop of green bell peppers in July and was then gifted with a whole new set of fruits in late September, just before Fall arrived!
Bell Peppers Growth Cycle
Peppers have a long growing season (60 to 90 days), so I tend to buy small plugs or starter pepper plants rather than grow them from seed. If you want to grow from seed it is best to use a propagator or greenhouse.
Pot the plugs or germinated seeds into individual small pots to get them started and once the threat of frost has passed and the soil temperature has reached 65F it is time to transplant.
Bell peppers do really well in pots so they do not necessarily need to go into the ground. They will grow tall though so ensure the final pot you use is at least 10 inches in depth.
Ensure that the seedlings are exposed to the correct growing conditions. Bell peppers require full sun and well-drained, fertile soil. They are relatively drought resistant but still like plenty of water every few days.
After 60-70 days you will start to see the green peppers form. Once they are the full size you can start to pick them. They should then ripen to their final color within another 2 weeks.
How Long Does It Take Bell Peppers To Turn Red
Once your green pepper is full size it can take anywhere from 7-14 days for it to ripen and turn fully red (or orange or yellow depending on the variety you have).
What Does A Mature Bell Pepper Look Like
Bell peppers are considered mature once they are fully grown and measure between 4–6 inches. They can be harvested while they are still green and many people prefer them at this stage for their earthy flavor and crunchy texture. As they continue to ripen they will change color and develop a sweeter flavor and softer texture. Bell peppers are famed for their wide cavity which makes them perfect to stuff and bake.
Green Bell Peppers
Green bell peppers are simply unripe bell peppers that are at the first stage of maturity. Many people prefer green bell peppers over red for their crunchy texture so will pick at this point. Large-scale pepper growers will often favor green pepper as it makes economical sense to harvest them as soon as possible. This is also why green bell peppers tend to be slightly cheaper to buy in a store than red or yellow ones!
Red Bell Peppers
There are several varieties of red bell peppers, ‘Lady Bell’, ‘Gypsy’ and ‘Lipstick’ to name a few. They are the sweetest color of bell pepper as they have completed their full maturation process so they contain more sugars. They are crammed full of health benefits too. Did you know that one cup of chopped red pepper will provide 150% of your recommended daily vitamin C dose?
Orange & Yellow Bell Peppers
Orange bell peppers, also known as ‘Milena’ peppers turn bright orange when ripe. The orange color is indicative of the presence of antioxidant carotenoids and as such, they are crammed with vitamin A.
Yellow bell peppers or ‘Golden California Wonder’ tend to be more bitter but with a sweet edge and again are packed with nutrients. They are often favored for topping off salads or adding a sweet tang to a tray of roast vegetables.
How To Harvest Bell Chilis
Bell peppers have massive stems making harvesting a bit of a chore. They are one of the largest and heaviest varieties of peppers and as such have very thick stems to support them.
I would always recommend using a sharp, clean pair of scissors or pruning shears to make a clean cut around 1 inch up the stem away from the pepper. This will prevent any damage to the plant.
Can Bell Peppers Turn Red After Harvesting
Green bell peppers can ripen off the plant, but only if the color change process has begun. This is indicated by slight darkness as the pepper moves through the color spectrum away from the green. You may also spot patches of red (or yellow or orange) starting to show through. If you notice this when you go to pick it is likely they will continue to ripen on your kitchen counter.
In order to maximize flavor, I find it is almost always best to allow peppers to ripen to the color you desire on the vine.