Part of growing pepperoncini peppers (Capsicum annuum) in your vegetable garden is learning how to harvest pepperoncini peppers properly. Pepperoncini is a mild pepper with a long, wrinkly appearance. Sweet with a bit of heat, these peppers are often pickled and are frequently used on pizzas, sandwiches and salads, but you can also eat them fresh. Getting the harvesting time right maximizes your crop and ensures the peppers are delicious and ready to enjoy.
Time to Maturity
All plants take different lengths of time to reach maturity. For a pepperoncini plant, the time to maturity is usually 65 to 75 days. Different varieties of pepperoncini plants might have varying times to mature fully. Calculate the general time frame for your plants reaching maturity based on when you plant them. This gives you a reference for knowing when to harvest pepperoncini peppers.
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Ideal growing conditions help your pepperoncini stay on track to maturity. The plants like full sun with lots of phosphorus and calcium in the soil. You can amend the soil with lime and compost to give the plants the nutrients they need, but don't overdo the lime by broadcasting it randomly; soil-test results can help you determine the proper amount, if needed.
Pepperoncini plants grow best with 1 to 2 inches of water per week between rain and your supplementary watering. Using a drip irrigation system is ideal to keep the pepper leaves dry. Lower water amounts produce peppers that are hotter, but you don't want to go too long without watering the pepperoncini, or they'll dry out.
Physical Signs of Ripeness
The length of time to harvest isn't the only indicator of ripeness. Growing conditions can affect the time it takes for pepperoncini to mature. Once the calendar indicates the peppers should be near ripe, check the plants regularly to see if the peppers are actually ripe. Mature pepperoncini peppers are usually between 2 and 5 inches long and about 1 inch wide. They appear wrinkled or crinkly when they're ready. The fruits should feel firm when you touch them if they're mature.
A pepperoncini starts out green as it's growing and changes color as it matures. Pepperoncini peppers are usually harvested when they're a yellow-green color; however, you can wait until they turn red as well. You'll likely notice the pepper turning a pinkish color before it changes to red.
There's some flexibility in when you harvest a pepperoncini. All peppers develop their flavor more the longer they're left on the plant. As the peppers change colors, they grow sweeter and increase their vitamin C content. Pepperoncini is usually best for pickling when it's still yellow-green. Red peppers are better for eating fresh or using in recipes.
Harvesting and Storing Pepperoncini Peppers
The best way to harvest the pepperoncini once it's ripe is by cutting the stem using a sharp knife or pruning shears. This ensures a clean cut and protects the plant. Leaving a small length of the stem attached to the pepperoncini can help preserve its freshness longer. Harvest the peppers as they become ripe, checking the plant daily to see if more peppers are ready for picking.
Once you harvest the pepperoncini peppers, you can typically store them in the refrigerator for up to 10 days. You can enjoy them raw; however, many people preserve them before adding them to their meals. For longer storage, pickle the pepperoncini peppers after harvesting them. You can also preserve them in oil.