One of the fun things about peppers is that you can harvest them before they’re actually ripe; those are the green peppers that are so common at the supermarket. Almost every pepper starts off green and then ripens to red, yellow, orange, purple, brown, or even a creamy white!
When you look at seed packets for bell peppers, you’ll see two harvest dates: the “green” date and the “ripe” date. In general, you’ll need to wait an additional three weeks after the “green” date for your peppers to reach their full ripeness. Green bell peppers are tasty, but bell peppers have so much more flavor if you can wait those extra weeks before harvesting!
When you do go to pick your perfect pepper, don’t just yank it off the plant; that may damage the plant and could jeopardize future ripe fruit. Use a knife or garden scissors to make a clean cut, separating the stem of the fruit from the plant. If you harvest some of your peppers when they’re green, your plants will keep producing flowers to set more fruit, so pick away!
If you have frost in the forecast and your pepper plants are in the ground or in raised beds, pick any peppers that look remotely ripe, then protect the remaining plants with a row cover. Row covers can increase the heat around your plants and protect them until the temperature drops below 25 degrees F; then growing season is definitely over.
Peppers will stay fresh in the fridge for a couple weeks if you keep them unwashed in the crisper drawer. But it’s best to start using some of your harvest fresh and then plan to preserve the rest.