The Ghost Pepper, also known as Bhut Jolokia, originates from India. Aptly named, the ripe wrinkled pepper resembles a ghostly figure hanging from the vine and the power and surprise in its slow-burn spice level are enough to haunt even the most hardened pepper enthusiast!
This legendary pepper, which was declared the hottest in the world in 2007, has a longer growth life cycle than average, so the question of when to pick a ghost pepper is made all the more complex.
Pinpointing exactly what flavor and potency you want to achieve is also key as the potent capsicum increases in intensity the longer it is left on the vine. Get it right and you will be rewarded with a plentiful crop of ghost peppers across the season that will give your taste buds an excellent fright!
- When To Pick Ghost Peppers Outdoor Grown Vs Greenhouse
- What Month To Harvest Ghost Peppers
- How Long Do Ghost Peppers Take To Grow
- How To Tell If Ghost Peppers Are Ripe
When To Pick Ghost Peppers Outdoor Grown Vs Greenhouse
Much like other super hot scale peppers, the growing phase for the ghost pepper is extended to nearly 5 months to allow the heat to fully develop in the membrane of the pepper.
Using a greenhouse will mean you can potentially shorten the growing cycle to around 4 months by taking all external climate factors out of the equation.
If this is not an option, they do grow well outside but you will need to transplant the hardy seedlings into a sunny spot and can expect the peppers to be ready to pick around 150 days later.
What Month To Harvest Ghost Peppers
If you are aiming to achieve ripe red peppers with maximum heat and power then you can expect to wait until around August or even early September before they are ready.
You can pick the unripe green peppers which are popular for use in sauces and stir-fries, much earlier in the season, around late July. Opting to do this with some of the peppers will also encourage more growth giving you a bumper crop.
How Long Do Ghost Peppers Take To Grow
The life cycle of a ghost pepper is around 150 days from planting seeds to harvesting a ripe red pepper. To have any crop to harvest before the end of the summer it is important to start your ghost peppers indoors in the late Winter.
This will ensure you have a robust and established sapling ready to transplant once the frosts have finished and the ground temperature is consistently above 65F. You can then maximize the growing phase and warm summer sun.
How To Tell If Ghost Peppers Are Ripe
The ripe ghost pepper is around 2-3 inches in length with a pod-like shape that tapers to a point. It takes on a ghostly form and at full maturity, the skin is wrinkled and pock-marked.
Colour gives the best guide to ripeness, with the early-stage peppers appearing as green fruit. They then move through a spectrum to yellow and even sometimes orange before turning a brilliant red at the point they are ready to pick.
Green Ghost Peppers
The green ghost pepper is simply an immature version of the full ghost pepper. I prefer to pick them at the green stage as they provide a unique grassy flavor with a more manageable level of spice. There have been attempts to create a sub-variety of ghost pepper that remain green at full maturity but these are still unstable and not sold widely.
Red Ghost Peppers
Red ghost peppers are the mature and fully ripe version of the ghost pepper. They are around 2-3 inches in length and underneath the wrinkled skin, the flesh is crisp and pale red, encasing a central cavity filled with very spicy membranes and round, flat, cream-colored seeds.
They are initially sweet and smoky, lulling you into a false sense of security. This is followed a few minutes later by a scorching heat that builds in intensity and packs a punch! They live up to their name at this stage and really will give you a scary surprise!
How To Harvest Ghost Peppers
Despite the heat levels, it is a little safer (although not advised and I certainly would not risk it) to handle a ghost pepper with no gloves as the capsicum is not in the outer skin. Caution should be taken not to pierce the skin though when harvesting as this could release the potent oil.
Using scissors or shears, cut around an inch up the stalk to remove the pepper from the vine. It is also possible to pick by hand by carefully holding the stem and pulling the pepper up and away.
Will Ghost Peppers Ripen Off The Vine
Ghost peppers, unlike other pepper varieties, will ripen off the vine if you needed to harvest them slightly early. But to get that intense flavor they should be left on the plant as long and as close as possible to your desired color for their final use.
Once picked, if stored in a dry place at room temperature for a week they may ripen another color along the spectrum, so a green pepper will not become red, but a ghost pepper picked in the dark orange phase may turn to red if stored correctly.
Do Ghost Peppers Keep Fruiting
Ghost peppers, like other varieties, will produce more peppers the more you pick them. Once they are ripe and ready to harvest remove the pepper and it will encourage more to ripen. As they have such a long growth cycle, picking them as soon as you are ready will give you the best chance of a large yield across the season.