If you want to get as much of a harvest as possible from almost any of your vegetables and fruits, a good principle to remember is the more you harvest the more the plant produces. If you stop the harvest and the fruits or vegetables remain on the plant, the plant will stop producing.
A friend of ours would never pick his tomatoes until bright red because he thought if they weren’t vine ripened they wouldn’t taste as good. Needless to say, his plants stopped producing literally months before mine did.
After letting him taste some of my tomatoes that were picked when they were almost all red and then allowed to ripen in the house, he was shocked that they were just as good as his vine ripened ones.
Let’s talk Peppers
A reader of TMG, who is a long time gardener, brought up an excellent point by leaving a comment on my post Peppers – Almost an Extra Month of Red Ones. She said:
- “I have found that when a pepper turns red it signals the plant that it doesn’t need to keep producing as much. To counter this, earlier in the season I wait until a pepper shows a little red before picking it. It continues ripening to full red once it has started, even on the kitchen counter. Later in the season, when any new fruit would be caught by frost before ripening anyway, I let the peppers fully ripen on the bush.”
Ripening off the Plant
Although I have on several occasions picked peppers that showed a little red and left them to ripen on a counter, I have not had the success that this reader has had with this very convenient method.
The peppers look great for about 3 days and continue to turn red; but after that they loose the quality of a freshly picked pepper. The skin becomes not as turgid as when it was harvested. I feel at this point, they loose some of their nutrient value as well as their good looks.
Memo: Peppers picked and held in the crisper box of the refrigerator will keep beautifully from 2 to 4 weeks. Keep in mind however, that one picked before it’s fully red will not ripen further in the refrigerator.
Clarification on the Signal to Quit
Just to clarify — one pepper turning red will not signal the plant to stop producing. Just as one or two tomatoes or strawberries on a plant will not signal the tomato plant or strawberry plant to stop producing. (And I don’t think my reader meant to imply that just one would send up the signal for the plant to call it quits.)
It’s the plant that has all its peppers turning red — with none of it’s fruit being picked — that will “think” it’s finished producing new fruit and it’s only job is to finish ripening what’s left.
How I Make Sure they Keep On Producing
To make sure my plants keep producing as long as possible — but maybe not quite as abundantly as possible — I pick some of the peppers when they’re big, but still green.
I usually choose the ones that are not as perfectly shaped as others, or maybe have a bug hole, or seem to be “just smaller” than the others. And of course, as soon as my peppers are really red — I harvest them that day.
So — from a plant that gives me lots of red peppers — I probably don’t get quite the number of peppers as my reader. But I get a LOT — both red and green. And my plants are still producing when frost comes.
How I Make Sure we get Enough
Now that I’ve become a red pepper fanatic, I don’t know that it’s going to be possible for me to get as many as I really want. But it will be possible to get a lot.
I usually plant at least 12 pepper plants. I harvest at least 5 or more peppers per day for a four to five month period. To be conservative in my estimate, let’s say 4 months x 30 days = 120 days x 5 peppers = 600 peppers. Pretty conservative figure, and I think the real figure would be closer to a 1,000 peppers.
I know you must be wondering what in the world we do with all those peppers. Well — we eat them. If you are not depending on your garden for most of your food — you probably will not relate. But — red peppers especially are easily devoured for mid day snacks and lunch. Green peppers are usually cooked in various dishes for dinner. And then of course, I like some frozen for winter.
If I can find a place in the garden, I’ll plant more peppers this year.
The Bottom Line on How to Harvest More Peppers
Sow bountifully to reap bountifully. Then harvest more so your plants will produce more.
Organic Gardening is easy, effective, efficient — and it’s a lot healthier.
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