If you’ve ever considered expanding your chili pepper cultivation beyond jalapenos, you may have come across serrano peppers. Given that serranos are less well-known than their jalapeno cousins, it’s not surprising if you’re wondering, “What are serrano peppers?” Learn more about these flavorful fruits, including when to pick serrano peppers and enjoy them in tasty recipes.
The serrano pepper, Capsicum annuum, is a hot chile that originated in the Mexican states of Puebla and Hidalgo. It’s similar in appearance to a jalapeno, although slightly smaller and significantly hotter.
People often eat these peppers green, although they ripen to red, orange, brown, or yellow. The heat level for chile peppers is measured using the Scoville scale, in which chiles with higher numbers are spicier.
The heat rating for serrano peppers ranges from 10,000 to 25,000 Scoville Heat Units (SHU). By contrast, jalapeno peppers have a rating between 2500 and 10,000 SHU.
Serrano peppers are a popular ingredient in Thai and Mexican cuisine. If you don’t mind a little heat, try eating them raw, pickled, fried, or roasted. The chilis make a tasty topping for tacos or added to hot sauce, stews, and pico de gallo.
- How to Know When to Harvest Serrano Peppers
- Harvesting Serrano Peppers Based on Size
- Harvesting Serrano Peppers before They Ripen
- Harvesting Serrano Peppers When They are Ripe
- Deciding When to Harvest Serrano Peppers Based on Their Maturity Date
- When to Pick Serrano Peppers to Get a Larger Harvest
- Determining When to Harvest Serrano Peppers Based on Texture
- Look for Brown Lines to Know When to Pick a Serrano Pepper
- Pick Serrano Peppers in Warm Weather
- How to Harvest and Store Serrano Peppers
- How Spicy are Serrano Peppers?
How to Know When to Harvest Serrano Peppers
Like with other hot peppers, there is not a specific date for picking serrano peppers. The best time to harvest depends on your preferences for size, color, and flavor, as with the different types of jalapenos and other pepper varieties.
Harvesting Serrano Peppers Based on Size
Serrano peppers are long, thin peppers, typically one to four inches long and a half-inch wide. Although you can pick them anytime, it’s common to harvest peppers that are three to four inches long.
If you grew the plant from seed, check whether the packet mentions the average size for that variety. Smaller peppers tend to be hotter since they have a higher concentration of capsaicin, the chemical compound that gives hot peppers their kick.
In 2019, the Chile Pepper Institute in New Mexico developed a new serrano strain that is larger and less spicy. It’s called the NuMex Cajohns Serrano.
Harvesting Serrano Peppers before They Ripen
The answer to the question of when to pick serrano peppers partly depends on your spice tolerance. Like with jalapenos, it’s common to pick serrano peppers when they’re still green and have not yet ripened.
The green peppers have a different flavor than red ones. They’re still hot but slightly milder than ripe peppers.
Serrano peppers often turn a darker green before they turn red. That stage is a good time for harvesting serrano peppers. If you end up picking the fruits too early, leave them to ripen on a south-facing windowsill.
Harvesting Serrano Peppers When They are Ripe
Check the seed packet, if you have it available, to find out when to harvest serrano peppers and their expected color when ripe, just as when harvesting tabasco peppers. Red serrano peppers have a spicier, more-complex flavor than green ones.
Yellow and orange peppers are still spicy but less spicy than red ones. You may also have a particular color of pepper that you need for a recipe.
Note that serrano peppers may stay green for several weeks before they change to red.
Don’t wait too long to pick your peppers since they may eventually rot or fall off the plant. Try harvesting serrano peppers when they just start to develop their final color.
Deciding When to Harvest Serrano Peppers Based on Their Maturity Date
The seed packet often states the number of days to maturity for many types of peppers, which is another way to know when to harvest serrano peppers.
Although you have some flexibility depending on your desired size and color for the peppers, this number indicates how long you should expect to wait.
Many serrano peppers are ready to harvest in 70 to 90 days. The green peppers may be ready in as little as 60 days after you sow the seeds.
When to Pick Serrano Peppers to Get a Larger Harvest
If you harvest early, while the fruits are still green, serrano pepper plants tend to bear more blossoms and produce fruits more regularly. Picking a large number of peppers is another way to increase the yield.
Under ideal conditions, you may see up to 50 pepper pods per plant. Follow other plant care tips like applying a fertilizer rich in phosphorus, calcium, and potassium to enjoy the largest possible bounty of chile peppers.
Determining When to Harvest Serrano Peppers Based on Texture
Serrano peppers have a meaty texture and thin skin. The skin thickness varies somewhat between peppers but does not affect the harvest date. Look for fruits that are firm and free of wrinkles and blemishes.
Peppers that have finished growing snap easily off the plant. Other than when you’re checking whether the peppers are ready to pick, use a knife or garden clippers to harvest serrano peppers.
Look for Brown Lines to Know When to Pick a Serrano Pepper
In a phenomenon known as corking, hot peppers like serrano peppers sometimes develop tiny brown growth lines and a cracked appearance.
The lines appear when the inside of the pepper grows faster than the outside. Your peppers may grow too quickly if they receive too much water, sunlight, or nutrients while they are developing.
Corked peppers may look less pretty than specimens you’d find at the grocery store, but the lines are a good indication that the fruits have finished growing.
Do you know when to pick chili peppers when they are corked? You don’t need to wait for corked peppers to get any larger. In fact, you can harvest them anytime and should do so before their skin splits. Some people say that corked peppers taste sweeter and spicier than other peppers. They also often have thicker skin.
Pick Serrano Peppers in Warm Weather
There’s a reason that serrano peppers are popular to grow in Mexico. These peppers thrive in regions with hot summers and mild winters. The growing conditions, including the amount of sun exposure, affect the fruits’ ripening speed and level of heat and can help you know when to harvest hot banana peppers as well as serranos and jalapenos.
Like with other hot peppers, growing serrano peppers and harvesting your plant during the warmer months as much as possible is best. Serrano peppers prefer full sun and have a low frost tolerance. Start the seeds indoors, moving the seedlings outdoors three weeks after the last frost.
The ideal range is daytime temperatures above 75℉ and nighttime temperatures above 55℉. However, you also don’t want temperatures to rise significantly above 75℉ since too-hot temperatures reduce the yield.
If there’s the risk of frost, cover your plants overnight. Pick all peppers before temperatures dip below freezing since the delicate fruits will not survive the cold.
How to Harvest and Store Serrano Peppers
Now that you’re armed with knowledge about when to pick serrano peppers and other types of chili plants, you need to know how. To protect the plant, do not pull the peppers off by hand. Instead, cut them off with a knife, garden clippers, scissors, or pruning shears.
Harvest while the plant is dry to avoid spreading disease. Consider wearing rubber gloves while harvesting, or at least wash your hands well after you’ve finished. Be careful not to rub serrano pepper oil on your face or eyes since it can cause a burning feeling.
Keep dry, unwashed serrano peppers in a resealable plastic bag in the crisper for up to two weeks. Rinse the peppers and cut off their stems just before using them.
Home cooks often remove pepper seeds and pith since they contain the most capsaicin, making them the spiciest part of the chile.
How Spicy are Serrano Peppers?
These chiles are hotter than jalapenos, with a bright, grassy taste. Although they’re delicious added to recipes, serrano peppers may be too spicy for those unused to a hot flavor. Note that there’s a delayed reaction, so you may not notice the kick right away.
The heat level varies depending on the serrano pepper variety, as well as on its color and size. In general, bright red peppers and smaller peppers are spicier. The flavor does mellow if you cook the chiles in a dish like soup or stew.
Peppers, including hot peppers, are a popular plant in home gardens. When it comes to serrano peppers, try eating a red pepper if you’re feeling adventurous or a green one if you have a lower spice tolerance.
Follow tips about when to pick serrano peppers and how to harvest and store them to enjoy perfect peppers in your home cooking.
Depending on your priorities, you may choose to harvest serrano peppers based on their size or color. Don’t forget to check the seed packet since it often contains useful information.
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