Inferno peppers (Capsicum annum [F1]) look like banana peppers, which makes sense since they are a hybrid produced by crossing banana peppers with other varieties, such as Hungarian wax peppers. The purpose of creating the hybrid was undoubtedly to add a little heat to the very mild banana pepper, which scores only 0 to 500 Scoville Heat Units (SHU) on a scale that goes into the millions. The inferno pepper, also known as the hot banana pepper, scores 2,000 to 6,000 SHU, which is definitely hotter but not exactly an inferno when compared to the jalapeño (3,000 to 8,000 SHU) or the habanero (100,000 to 350,000 SHU).
Like all hot peppers, the inferno pepper gets hotter the longer it stays on the plant, and as it does so, it changes color from green to yellow to red. If you pick it when it's green, you can munch on the entire pepper without discomfort, but if you wait until it's yellow, it will be spicier, and you'll probably want to add it to food rather than making it a snack on its own. For maximum spiciness, don't pick inferno peppers until they turn red.
Inferno Pepper Growing Season
Most hot peppers take from 60 to 70 days after planting to reach maturity, but they can stay on the plant as long as 210 days. Since peppers grow in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 2 through 11, which is practically everywhere, your climactic zone helps determine the best time to harvest them. If you live in a cold climate where planting isn't possible until June, you might not even begin to start harvesting until September, so the best time to pick the peppers is when they turn yellow because they won't have a chance to ripen much more.
In a warmer climate with a longer growing season, you have the option to pick the peppers when they are yellow or wait until they turn red. The plant will produce more peppers to replace the ones you pick as long as the weather is conducive, so picking the peppers early is a way to get a double or even triple harvest. If you want both mild and hot peppers, grow more than one plant and let the peppers on at least one plant ripen to full-heat potential while you enjoy the others throughout the season.
How to Pick Inferno Peppers
Most hot peppers are more fragile than they look, but the stems are strong, and if you try to pull one off the plant, you could either squash the pepper or take an entire branch off the plant. The best way to harvest hot peppers, such as inferno peppers, is to cut the stem as close to the pepper as possible using a pair of pruning shears. If you want the plant to produce more peppers near the site of the one you're harvesting, make the cut on a 45-degree angle to allow the branch to heal quickly.
Grow Peppers Year-Round
The pepper plant is an evergreen, and in its native tropical and subtropical habitat, it's a herbaceous perennial. It won't survive the winter in USDA zones 8 and below, but if you grow it in a container that you can bring into a warm space with sufficient light, you can harvest peppers year-round. This gives you the option to harvest them at any time in their growing cycle.
Chris Deziel is a contractor, builder and general fix-it pro who has been active in the construction trades for 40 years. He has degrees in science and humanities and years of teaching experience. An avid craftsman and musician, Deziel began writing on home improvement topics in 2010. He worked as an expert consultant with eHow Now and Pro Referral -- a Home Depot site. A DIYer by nature, Deziel regularly shares tips and tricks for a better home and garden at Hunker.com.