Gardeners with a taste for extra spicy food enjoy adding habanero peppers to their garden every summer. These hot peppers are one of the world’s spiciest, and knowing when to pick habanero peppers affects their overall flavor.
Learning when to harvest habaneros is beneficial because the riper they are, the more flavorful your dishes and sauces are going to be. When are habaneros ripe? There are a few critical tips for you to determine when the chili peppers are ready to harvest.
From spotting their full color to identifying grow marks, use these cues for when to pick habaneros, and your homemade hot sauce is going to be the perfect balance of spicy and sweet. If you can withstand the heat of these pepper plants, then putting in the work to grow them is worth every second.
The Scoville Scale
Habaneros, also called Capsicum chinense, are some of the hottest peppers in the world. As of today, there are 18 varieties of habaneros, with a new cultivar always on the horizon.
The Red Habanero, Orange Habanero, and Red Savina are some of the most popular. How do we know that they’re some of the hottest pepper varieties out there?
Pepper plants all contain capsaicin, which is the element that gives peppers their spice. The heat level is compared to others using Scoville heat units, and it ranges from zero to over 2,000,000 units.
On the bottom of the Scoville scale are sweet bell peppers with a heat unit of zero. As you move your way up the Scoville scale, the chilies get hotter and hotter. The jalapeno pepper is spicy to a lot of people but is relatively low on the scale.
Jalapenos have anywhere from 2,500 to 8,000 Scoville heat units. Cayenne peppers are higher on the list, with about 30,000 to 50,000 units.
The ghost pepper, Scotch Bonnet habanero, and Trinidad Scorpian pepper are all around the same heat level, reaching up to 350,000 heat units.
There are only a few pepper varieties hotter, like the Carolina reaper with over 2,000,000 units in every pepper.
Even though habaneros are super hot and high on the Scoville scale, there are ways to cool down their bite. Fresh habaneros hold on to their heat in the seeds. By removing the habanero seeds, the spice drops but the pepper itself still has a nice kick.
All About Habaneros
Habanero plants originate from the Yucatán peninsula near the Caribbean Sea. It is here where they are mass-produced for the rest of the world.
These orange and red peppers are common in Central and South American cooking but have spread worldwide for their unforgettable heat and tasty flavor.
How to Grow Habanero Peppers
So, when are habaneros ready to pick? Before knowing when to pick habanero peppers, you must know the way to grow habanero peppers successfully. Don’t blindly pick habanero pepper seeds at the garden center.
Do some quick research to find the type that works best for you. The classic orange habaneros are great, but there are other types with more heat, different colors, and sweet flavors.
While you’re shopping, pick up a seed-starting potting mix. This soil mix is aerated while holding onto moisture. Starting seeds indoors is common because it allows them to have a longer growing season that doesn’t leave the plants underdeveloped.
Northern gardeners typically start their seeds in early March, or at least eight weeks before the last frost of spring. If you live in southern regions, you might be able to move the plants outdoors earlier.
Habanero seeds retain enough nutrients already to start germination and allow them to reach about one to two inches tall, so fertilizer isn’t necessary at the start of planting.
Add the pre-purchased soil to a small pot and sow two seeds under a quarter-inch of soil. Add clean water to the pot so that it is evenly moist.
Set the planters in a warm place or under grow lights where they get full sun, and the temperatures remain from 80-90°F during the day and 70-75°F during nighttime. This is a crucial step since habanero plants come from warm regions originally.
Germination takes place after about ten days under ideal conditions. Once your plants are about six inches tall, they are ready to be hardened off and transplanted outside.
How to Transplant Habaneros
Transplanting is a necessary process that moves your youngling plants to their new, permanent home outdoors. Prepare your garden beds by digging out a deep enough trench to fit the entire root system of the six-inch-tall saplings.
Carefully remove the whole plant from its original pot and gently set it into the channel. Cover the roots with fresh soil and press it down around the plant’s base so it is gently compact.
Immediately water the plants after transplanting to let the roots have plenty of moisture and not put them into shock.
Caring for Habaneros
As the habaneros grow, you notice that they have simple, oval leaves that are glossy and dark green. The whole plant is bushy and only slightly taller than it is wide.
Adding plastic mulch is a smart way to keep the soil temperatures high when growing chilli peppers. Incorporating organic matter into the dirt also helps improve soil drainage and gives the plants extra nutrients.
Knowing When to Pick Habanero Peppers
Most growers are often left asking when are habaneros ripe? It’s important to know when are serrano peppers ready to harvest just like habaneros. There are a few imperative signs to look out for when starting to harvest habanero peppers and other pepper types.
Keep these simple tips in mind throughout the entire growing season so that you don’t miss the chance at eating a perfectly ripe pepper.
When are Habaneros Ripe?
The easiest way to tell when to harvest habaneros is to look at the coloring, just like when to harvest poblano peppers. Depending on the type of fresh habaneros you chose, the fruits may either be a bright orange or red color.
Green peppers are more common during the earlier stages of the growing season and aren’t usually ideal for picking. Peppers are generally ready for harvest 75 to 90 days after planting and reach one to two inches in length.
How and When to Harvest Habaneros
Growers can’t contain their excitement when it’s time to pick peppers, whether you harvest tabasco peppers or habaneros, or even when to harvest bell peppers. Grab a sharp knife or garden scissors when the peppers are ready.
You might consider wearing gloves to protect yourself from the oils that irritate sensitive skin and burn when you touch your eyes. Use the clippers to snip the peppers off and leave a small amount of the stem attached.
Some peppers have small brown lines across the skin called grow lines and must be picked regardless of their size and color because it means they finished growing.
It is also essential to harvest all the peppers if the entire plant looks dry to avoid spreading disease and ruining your crop.
Turning Habaneros into Salsa
Habaneros are delicious on their own if you can stand the heat, but they taste even better when paired with other fresh ingredients from the garden.
Grab a few fresh tomatoes, garlic, and onions that you’re growing and throw them together to make a hot salsa. Eat the salsa with chips, as a taco topping, or use them to marinate meats in a delicious and spicy way.
Drizzle only one tablespoon of olive oil in a pan over medium heat on your stove. Once the oil ripples, add the chopped tomatoes, habaneros, and onion. Cook the veggies and consistently stir them for about five minutes until softened.
Stir in the freshly chopped garlic and cook it for another minute so that it becomes fragrant. Pour the hot contents into a blender and add the vinegar, salt, and lime juice. Blend all the ingredients until smooth.
Heat the second tablespoon of olive oil in the same pan you used before and pour the blended salsa into the pan.
Simmer the habanero salsa for an additional 15 minutes to allow the flavors to combine and develop. Cool the salsa to room temperature and store it in an airtight container in the fridge until chilled.
Habaneros might be one of the hottest chilies you can get your hands on, but they make a unique addition to many dishes and bring your palate to life.
With this guide on growing habaneros, you’ll stop asking when are habaneros ripe and, instead, develop the skills to harvest them with only a quick glance.
If knowing when to pick habanero peppers has helped you grow your yearly yield, share this informative guide on when to harvest habaneros on Facebook and Pinterest.