Some chillies are poisonous

Harvesting chilli with success: timing is everything

Red or Green - and then? Tips on harvesting chilli

The right time to harvest chillies: If you like your chillies really hot, you shouldn't harvest them too early - and not too late.

The spiciness is of course primarily determined by the variety, i.e. genetically. Our burn-o-meter provides information about this. Nevertheless, there are huge fluctuations. Influencing factors are soil, climate and irrigation. In addition, the fruits on the lower part of the plant are often the hottest; upwards the sharpness decreases slightly.

In addition, new chemical studies now show that within a variety the spiciness is determined by how long the pods have grown before harvest. This was already mentioned in the May 2001 edition of the Journal of Agricultural & Food Chemistry the respectedAmerican Chemical Society reports, which has more than 155,000 chemists and chemical engineers as members.

Seven related substances that develop in the placenta inside the pods and are responsible for the spiciness of the chillies are responsible Capsaicinoids above all capsaicin. If the pods are harvested too early, not enough capsaicinoids have yet formed.

For piquin chils, according to the studies, the peak value is reached 40 days after fruit formation, for habaneros after 50 days (these values ​​apply to Mexico, the home of these two varieties; in our climate you can confidently add a few days to weeks). After this time, according to the researchers, the capsaicinoid content drops again, and with it the spiciness of the pods.

As has now been found out, this is due to another natural substance, the so-called Peroxidases. Researchers in Mexico are now trying to understand the connections between capsaicinoids and peroxidases. The aim of the investigations is to reduce losses for agriculture - here too, of course, there is an interest in harvesting with optimum heat.

Tip: You can find everything about chilli cultivation from sowing to harvest in our crash course for chilli gardeners

Red or green?

Peroxidases or not: Another aspect is of course the aroma. The pods may lose a bit of their heat after a while, but the red ripe fruits gain - especially the fleshy varieties such as. B. Jalapeno or Serrano - enormous in sweetness and valuable carotene.

However, if you harvest the ripened pods in good time (possibly still green), this favors the formation and regrowth of further fruits. On the other hand, it is advantageous to let the fruits ripen completely on the plant if possible. Even pods that have been picked green can, under certain circumstances, still color; however, the pods often shrivel before they turn red.

Do chillies ripen after harvest?

According to recent research, chillies do not ripen after harvest, unlike tomatoes, for example - see our news article here.


Different types of chilli are also eaten green, for example Jalapeno, Serrano, NewMex varieties like Anaheim and Sweet peppers. So you can always take as many fresh pods from your plants as you need. Poblano (and the "structurally identical" Turkish Dolmalik) are usually harvested green and then used whole for filling.

The New Mexican varieties in particular are used both green and red, and they develop completely different aromas in the process. The green harvested pods are roasted - usually with a gas flame in special roasters - to remove the somewhat tough skin. In addition, the light roasting (not cooking) develops the typical aroma. After roasting, the skin can be easily removed; in this form, the pods can either be used for delicious dishes such as green chile stew or frozen. It is best to chop the pods and freeze them in portions. The NewMex chillies ripened red on the plant are either bound to dry in ristras or laid out to dry. A large part is then ground to the red powder, which is offered in New Mexico everywhere in the gradations mild to X-Hot. It is part of the Red Chile Sauce, which is available with almost every meal there. The chilli powder works here as a natural thickener, so that most sauce recipes do not use flour or starch (tip for the calorie-conscious!)

Some varieties, e.g. B. Yellow Hot Wax, Hungarian Wax, mature yellow; these are never harvested green.

Jalapenos and Serranos taste better (at least to us) when they are red-ripened. Whether you succeed in doing this, however, depends heavily on the weather and other growing conditions. If the first autumn frost threatens, chillies harvested green in good time definitely taste better than those with frost damage. Since the blush of these varieties is uncertain, the industry uses jalapenos and serranos almost exclusively green. Chipotle are an exception; to do this, the jalapenos are usually ripe red for aroma reasons - no trick in Mexico either.

The little sharp devils like Thai, Tabasco and African Bird-Eye can also be harvested green or red. In fact, both versions are available fresh on the market. While the green pods can have a lot of fire, the aroma of the red ripened pods is more complex. And if you want to dry these chillies, you first have to let them blush (that this can be done by telling dirty jokes, however, has not yet been scientifically proven).

Habaneros also develop their heat before the color change to orange or red. There is hot sauce made with green habaneros (e.g. El Yucateco from the Mexican Yucatan peninsula); But it is precisely these chilies that only develop their fruity aroma when they are fully ripe and are then the most delicious.

Chile de Arbol are always harvested red; only then do they develop their typical aroma that distinguishes them from cayenne. This variety can be dried well.

The right time

The right harvest time is therefore determined by the sharpness and aroma. This goes hand in hand with the consistency of the pods. When harvesting green pods such as Jalapeno, Serrano, the New Mexicans (Anaheim, Sandia, Ortega, Big Jim, ...) and Poblano, you can feel whether they are ready: The pods are firm, but give a little when pressed . Immature pods are still completely filled with tissue and unripe seeds in the interior, so that they feel massive and do not give way. With small green chilies such as Thai, Tabasco and Bird-Eye, a taste test is best - but be careful - these varieties develop a sharp spiciness at an early stage! In general, with a green harvest, you should always try a pod before you bring in the whole harvest too early.

Red chillies should be harvested while they are still nice and plump and not yet shriveled. The red pods of thin-fleshed varieties such as Thai, Tabasco and African Bird-Eye can also be left to dry on the plant - provided that the weather is dry. In our latitudes, however, a dehydrator is usually essential for complete drying. More on this here.

Whether red, yellow or green: In any case, we wish all chili heads a super harvest!


And when the harvest is here ...

... you usually have a lot of chilies at once. What to do with it Fortunately there is
many things you can do with the fiery fruits - for example:

Preserving chillies by drying them (and possibly making ristras)

Now there's a sour treat: soak the chillies in vinegar

Roast and freeze chilies and enjoy them all year round

Hot sauce from our own kitchen Hot and tasty!

Toughened jams! The right kick for breakfast ...

Candying chillies - sweet and hot chillies and hot syrup

Make chipotle yourself - in the kettle grill or barbecue smoker

Chilli rum pot! Prepare in good time - keeps you warm in winter ...

No chillies grown yet? In our crash course for chilli gardeners, you will find out everything you need to know - from seeds to successful harvests!

Text and pictures by Harald Zoschke