June 19 - A reader asks:

"I have started growing Sweet Banana, Hot Banana, and Pablano Peppers recently. I already have peppers on my plants. How do I tell when the peppers are ready to be picked?"

Speaking generally - peppers can be picked pretty much anytime after they've reached a useful size. If you let a pepper mature, it develops more of its characteristic flavor: sweet peppers get sweeter, and hot peppers get hotter. But they are palatable even when fairly young.

Most unripe peppers are green (note that "green bell peppers" are just unripe peppers), although some have been developed with other colors, such as your Sweet Banana's yellow flesh. Pretty much every pepper will ripen to either red or yellow. The banana peppers I've grown eventually ripened red, which you might find mildly amusing.

One thing is worth noting, though. If you let peppers ripen fully, that plant will probably not set any more flowers (and therefore fruit). This is because the pepper "fruit" is simply a mechanism for the plant to develop seed - so once the plant has accomplished this, it shuts down. In the maritime Pacific Northwest our hot season is pretty short, so in practice this doesn't matter much. If you live in a warmer climate with a longer hot season, though, you should keep your peppers picked before they can fully ripen. As the season winds down you can relax this rule, of course.

More information can be found in my 1997 article, Peppers!.

All contents © Travis Saling
This page was last updated November 18, 2013