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Harvesting and Storing Home Grown Peppers: How to Pick Your Peppers and Keep Them Fresh

You’ve grown a garden full of all kinds of peppers and now you need to know how to keep them safe from insects and diseases and how to harvest and store your peppers.

Peppers usually don’t attract bugs but several insects can attack your pepper crop. Aphids are small green or brown insects about 1/8 inch long and can be found on the undersides of leaves. The Leaf Miner is a small yellowish worm that causes tunnels on leaves. The Flea Beetle is smaller than an aphid and has a metallic bronze body and eats holes in the leaves. Tomato Horn Worms are large green caterpillars and eat leaves and stems. You will know you have one if you see entire sections of the plant being eaten to the stem. They are easy to find and eliminate. White flies might also attack the leaves and suck them dry.

Peppers can be infected with fungus that causes ugly brown spots and black lesions on the fruit. Mildew, bacterial spot and tobacco mosaic are some others but most of today’s varieties are resistant to those diseases. If you smoke, wash hands before handling fruit and pepper plants to avoid passing on mosaic disease.

Check with your local nursery to find insecticides or fungicides to protect your plants or they can give you ideas on how to rid your garden of them organically.

Most peppers are ready to harvest 60 to 90 days after planting. Bell peppers can be harvested when they get shiny and dark green. If you leave them on the plant they will turn into red peppers. Just be sure to pick them before they get mushy. Other sweet peppers should be picked when they become the right size and shape and when they become firm. Hot peppers should be picked when they turn red or yellow, depending on the variety. Jalapenos are ready when they are a deep dark green.

Cut them gently from the stems. Be careful when handling hot peppers and always wear gloves when touching them. Getting their juices on your skin or in your eyes and nose can be very painful and you can’t get rid of the pain quickly. Always wear rubber gloves. If some of the juices and oils get on your skin wipe with rubbing alcohol and then rub Hemorrhoid medication on it. You can also rinse your hands in whole milk to ease the heat of pain.

Store peppers in the vegetable crisper of your refrigerator and use within 5 days of harvesting. There are several other ways to preserve your peppers. To freeze sweet peppers wash and core them then dice. Spread in a single layer on a cookie sheet and place in the freezer for about an hour. Loosen pieces from cookie sheet and put in freezer bags. You can remove as many pepper pieces as you need and place the rest back in the freezer. To preserve hot peppers air dry them (this works well with chili peppers and Hungarian paprika peppers). String them up by passing a large needle through the stems with heavy string and hang them from a rafter in a dark area. Once they dry they can be ground into fine particles to be used in recipes. Hot peppers can be pickled.

A good way to preserve hot peppers is to pickle and can them. Here is a good way to have your garden grown jalapeno peppers all the way past winter. Wear gloves when preparing this recipe.

Pickled Jalapenos

●        2 lbs Jalapenos

●        1 cup white vinegar

●        ¾ cup water

●        1 teaspoon salt

●        1 teaspoon pickling spices

●        1 carrot, sliced

●        2 celery sticks

●        1 clove of garlic

  1. Place washed peppers into a 1 quart hot sterilized jar.
  2. Add carrot, celery and garlic leaving a 2 inch     headspace. In a glass bowl or 4 cup measuring cup combine vinegar, water,     and salt.
  3. Pour into jar and run a plastic knife down the side of     the jar to remove air bubbles. Don’t use a metal spoon as it could react     with the vinegar.
  4. Place lid on and process in a boiling water bath 10 minutes.
  5. Remove from boiling water and allow to cool. If you hear a loud pop you know the seals have sealed and your peppers are     preserved.