There are thousands of different types of hot peppers, but few compare to the spice level of the ghost pepper. In this article, find out when to pick ghost peppers, along with a few fabulous ways to use them in the kitchen.
Ghost pepper plants have a relatively long growing season. They take 100-150 days from the time you plant seeds to reach full maturity. Most growers get a head start by planting ghost pepper seeds indoors in early spring.
If it’s your first time growing them, you might be wondering, “When are ghost peppers ripe?” The most obvious sign to look for when harvesting ghost peppers is their color change.
When immature, ghost peppers are green. As they ripen, they turn from pale yellow to orange, then darken to a brilliant red. When they’re completely mature, their skin begins to wrinkle slightly.
Some like it hot, but then there’s ghost pepper hot. Read on to discover all the essential tips and tricks for growing and harvesting ghost peppers.
When are Ghost Peppers Ripe?
Have you ever asked, “How long does it take to grow ghost peppers?” While their exact harvest time depends on growing conditions, expect your crop of ghost peppers to be ready for picking in about three or four months.
As chile peppers ripen, the flavor changes along with the fruit’s chemical composition. The sugar content increases the longer they stay on the vine, as does their capsaicin level.
Capsaicin is the naturally occurring chemical component in peppers that gives them their spiciness. Green peppers have a slightly bitter taste and a milder spice level.
Ripe peppers are sweeter but also considerably hotter. How hot they get depends on how long they remain on the plant.
Hot peppers are ranked on the Scoville scale for heat level based on capsaicin content. For reference, a jalapeno pepper measures 2,500-8,000 Scoville Heat Units (SHU). How spicy are serrano peppers? Serranos measure from 5,000-15,000 SHU and tabasco and cayenne peppers measure 30,000-50,000 SHU.
A habanero pepper measures 100,000-350,000 SHU. Bell peppers do not contain any capsaicin and have a Scoville rating of 0.
In 2007, the ghost chili was deemed the world’s hottest pepper at 855,000 to over one million SHU. However, it was dethroned in 2011 by the Trinidad Scorpion.
In 2013, the Guinness Book of World Records declared the super hot Carolina Reaper the hottest pepper in the world at more than two million SHU.
Ghost chili peppers are native to India and are called Bhut Jolokia or Naga Jolokia. They’re a naturally occurring hybrid between two species of peppers: Capsicum chinense and Capsicum frutescens.
Ghost peppers have a long history of cultivation and use in India, both for culinary and medicinal purposes.
Tips and Tricks for Harvesting Ghost Peppers
After attentively caring for your ghost pepper plants all season, whether you grow ghost peppers indoors or outside, you may wonder, “When are ghost peppers ready to pick?” When are chili peppers ready to pick depends on how hot you like them and how you want to use them in the kitchen.
For the maximum spice level, allow the peppers to reach full maturity before picking them. The same holds true for when to harvest a tabasco pepper. Dried peppers are even hotter than fresh ones. Allow ghost peppers to dry on the plant or spread them out in a warm, well-ventilated area to dry after harvesting.
Once you reach the end of the summer growing season, harvest all of your peppers before the nighttime temperatures drop below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, regardless of their ripeness. Even a light frost damages the plant tissues and ruins your crop.
To avoid damaging the plant, use a pair of sterile, sharp pruners for harvesting instead of pulling the peppers off the branches. Encourage more vigorous fruit production by picking peppers regularly as soon as they’re ripe enough.
Since it’s one of the hottest pepper varieties, it’s crucial to take a few precautions when harvesting ghost peppers. Their extremely high capsaicin level may affect your skin as well as your taste buds.
Wear gloves when picking ghost peppers to protect yourself from possible skin irritation, especially if you have sensitive skin. Many people protect their eyes, hands, mouth, and nose with safety gear while processing ghost peppers for cooking.
Avoid touching sensitive areas like your eyes and nose until you thoroughly wash your hands. Rinsing with vinegar helps to neutralize capsaicin burns both on the skin and in the mouth.
The most common use for ghost peppers is making hot sauce. Try this fantastic recipe for cherry bourbon hot sauce with ghost peppers if you’d like to add a little sweetness to the spice.
Remove the Maraschino cherries from their juice. Take off the cherries’ stems and set the juice aside for later.
Remove the stems and seeds from your ghost peppers and cut them into quarters. Combine the Kentucky bourbon, ghost peppers, cherries, and vanilla in a resealable container and allow them to marinate in your refrigerator for at least one week.
Pour the mixture into a blender or food processor and purée until smooth. Pour it into a saucepan and incorporate the cane syrup and cherry juice. Stir in the brown sugar, and simmer over low-medium heat for around one hour, stirring occasionally.
Allow your hot sauce to cool for 20-30 minutes before serving. Store any leftovers refrigerated in an airtight container for up to three months.
Knowing When to Pick Ghost Peppers
It’s critical to identify when to harvest ghost peppers. Other than their noticeable color change, there are several different indications of ripeness to look for.
Unripe ghost peppers are a glossy, bright green color and have a firm texture. Although the pepper pods themselves are irregularly shaped, their skin is relatively smooth.
As they mature, the color transitions through yellow and orange before finally ripening to bright red. Although they’re edible at any stage, red peppers have the fullest, boldest flavor.
When they reach full maturity, the peppers begin to soften a bit, and the skin starts to shrivel slightly. If desired, leave a few peppers on the plant to dry out.
Alternatively, spread them on a drying rack or hang them in a warm, dry location for three or four weeks. Dried ghost peppers are up to ten times hotter than fresh ones.
Bring a richly smokey flavor to your next batch of hot sauce with this mouthwatering recipe for smoked ghost pepper hot sauce.
Start by smoking your dried ghost peppers on a smoker for 15-20 minutes. Check them every few minutes to ensure they don’t get too charred. The skins should be lightly blackened in places but still primarily red.
Once the ghost peppers are cool enough to handle, remove the stems and as many seeds as possible. Be sure to wear gloves during the de-seeding process.
Add all of the ingredients to a blender or food processor and purée until smooth. Pour the mixture into a pot or saucepan and simmer on low-medium heat until the total volume reduces by approximately 20%.
If desired, strain it through a sieve to remove any small pieces that didn’t get thoroughly blended. Allow the hot sauce to cool for 20-30 minutes before serving. Store leftovers in an airtight container in your refrigerator for up to 90 days.
Caring for Ghost Pepper Plants
Ghost pepper plants have a reputation for being difficult to grow because they require long periods of heat and humidity. The ideal temperature range to grow-ghost-peppers is between 70-90 degrees Fahrenheit.
To ensure the best germination rate for your ghost pepper seeds, keep the soil moist and maintain the soil temperature between 80-90 degrees Fahrenheit.
It’s often challenging to mimic their native growing conditions in North American climates. For optimal results, plant ghost peppers in a greenhouse where it’s easier to maintain warm, humid air throughout the growing season.
Pepper plants grow best in full sun, where they receive eight or more hours of direct sunlight each day. The plants may drop their flowers and fruit in response to cold or drought stress. Use mulch to insulate the soil, retain moisture, and minimize weed growth.
Since they’re not exactly a commonplace garden veggie, you might be wondering, “When are ghost peppers ripe?” This super hot chili pepper variety has a long growing season.
Depending on seasonal conditions, it takes 100-150 days for ghost peppers to reach full maturity. Although it’s perfectly fine to harvest green or red peppers, the fully ripe ones pack the biggest punch on the Scoville scale.
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