Assorted end of the season pepper questions

bella_trix(z6b SE PA)October 13, 2007

I have a couple of questions now that fall is really here:

1) the weather has finally turned colder here in PA, 40-50s at night, 60-70 day. My plants, especially the habaneros and anaheim, are covered with green peppers. Will they ripen? If not, how can I use green habaneros?

2) When should I give up and harvest the last green peppers? If the plants die from the cold, will the peppers also be toast or still usable?

3) My peppers really took off in the last month. Is that normal for the time of year or was it just the age of the plants? I did get some ripe Habaneros, but have lots of green ones now. They were started February 14th inside. Should I start them earlier next year?

4) When should I pick anaheims for roasting? I've been picking them when they are half red and green. Can I use the all green ones too?

5) Would it be worth digging up a habanero and bringing it inside to ripen the last peppers? Would the shock from potting it make it drop the peppers? I have a sunny window or could set up the grow lights again. Any thoughts?

I had a very good season for my first year, even though the plants weren't in the best of locations. First they were a little crowded by the potatoes, then by the out of control tomatoes (who knew they'd get so big here on the east coast! not me, apparently). To add insult to injury, the tomato cages blew over in the high wind on top of the peppers. They survived, but I almost had a heart attack when I saw the situation. I've had a good harvest so far, so I'm happy. Many thanks again to John in Maine for the free pepper seed!



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if you can cover the plants with cloth like blankets or even bed sheets on the frost nights they can last much longer.

My experience has been that the first frost hurts some top leaves. the 2nd frost kills the plant. The peppers are like new. But no experience on Habs freezing.

Green peppers are perfect for use and eating. You can freeze them, make hot sauce. or store them for later. Green new mexico peppers are usuaully used more than red ones.

Remember to save some seeds. Some peppers will ripen red indoors.

This time of year they do put on a lot of peppers. they do not like the extreme heat. so the cooling down gets them going again.

mid feb should be early enough for me zone 5. My guess is that your plants needed more sun and less shade and competition from the other plants. You should have had tons of ripe habanero and anaheim by now and Jalapeno are early also.

If you bring in plants I would not use a lot of grow lights. they will probably not make it anyway. read up on overwintering peppers. I plant all mind in pots in the spring that I want to bring in over the winter. thus avoiding the transplanting shock in the fall. You might try the heavy prune method. dig up remove some roots and a lot of the top and repot in soil. keep cool and let grow slowly. watch for aphids. The shock from potting up will probably drop all the leaves but not the peppers so much.

Freeze all the peppers you can harvest and then learn what to do with them. If the harvest is really big and the freezer is very small then chop them up before freezing to reduce the volume.

You can also fill a mason jar half full of vinegar and fill with peppers kept under the vinegar and they will keep. Read up on making hot sauce. Kendra makes them this way. first post in the thread. simple and a great way to make hot sauce.

Here is a link that might be useful: hot sauce

    Bookmark   October 13, 2007 at 8:07PM
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ardnek710(z6 stlouis)

You can also just pull the plant out of the ground and place inside. Any full size pods on the plant will ripen very quickly. We do this if we don't want to haul the whole plant in dirt and all, sometimes we put the roots in a bucket of water to keep them somewhat hydrated while the peppers are ripening, but others will just hang them up in a warm spot and wait for the pods to ripen.

Also, green habs usually have the heat they have when ripe, so you can make some interesting sauces and such from all the green pods. I like an "all-sorts" of green pods made into a sauce, it usually has a very different flavor since it is a hodge-podge of whatever was green at the killing freeze point.

Also, very good points made by dangould. We are in a similar zone so I think your starting time is okay. Sounds like more sunlight, plus we had an extremely hot and dry summer. Even though chile plants like the sun and heat, they won't necessarily produce pods in extreme heat. As soon as temps drop to 80's they start to produce like mad. Unfortunately they don't always ripen in time for frost.
Like dangould said, you can try to cover them with tarps or old blankets at night to protect the plants and give yourself some extra time for growth/ripening.

as far as overwintering, you can keep a plant alive but pretty much dormant (no leaves, no pods) in a warm sunny window. If you want to continue growth and pod production, that is a hefty investment in lighting (i.e. metal halide, etc). One huge concern with growing them inside is the aphids. They quickly become a huge threat since you have no natural predators inside, be prepared to do battle and get ladybugs.


    Bookmark   October 14, 2007 at 5:27PM
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bella_trix(z6b SE PA)

Thanks for the help! My peppers made it through a few frosts, but with the temp forecast for 29, I pulled up my habaneros. It was so hard to do! I love those peppers and hated pulling them from the ground. Next year I may try one in a pot. The plants are now inside, in a bucket of water. It's working great - all my green peppers are starting to ripen.

Thanks again,

    Bookmark   November 6, 2007 at 10:48PM
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I also had many peppers (both red & green) on the vine that I brought in before our 1st frost. I processed most of them into 7 different batches of hot sauce. With some of them I used a basic sauce recipe with vinegar and some of them using the following salt aging recipe. I also have a few questions and would appreciate Kendra's advice.
"Simply put you harvest ripe chiles of whatever color, crush or grind them (I run them through the food processor with the chopper blade), put them in a non-reactive container and put about three tablespoons pickling salt per estimated pound of chiles on top. Put on a loose lid and let sit for 3 to 6 months. Tabasco lets them ferment in a wooden barrel for three years but most of us don't have a constant temperature salt mine to do this in. You will have to keep a sharp eye on the chiles to avoid mold. To make it easier I put 1/3 cup white vinegar (5%) on top of the chiles after the first week, helps to fight mold and/or mildew. I've tried keeping the crock in the refrigerator but it seemed to make the mold worse."
Here are my questions:
1. Should I stir the salt into the ground up peppers or leave it on top?
2. Do I need to maintain any certain pH level while it is fermenting?
3. What happens at the end of the 6 months of aging? Do I drain off the liquid and discard the mash? Do I puree the mash and discard the liquid? Do I add vinegar or anything else?
Any and all advice will be appreciated.
Thanks, JohnA

    Bookmark   November 7, 2007 at 11:11AM
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ardnek710(z6 stlouis)

hi john, thanks for the plug..:)

I think I answered this post in your email (atleast as best as I could).
Please feel free to post the contents of it up here for the thread.


    Bookmark   November 8, 2007 at 7:08PM
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Thanks for your sage advise, Kendra. Kendra's response is included below for the benefit of all. If any of the rest of you know what I should do with this at the end of the fermentation, please speak up.
"No, problem, glad I am helpful on gardenweb.
Unfortunatly I cannot answer your questions very well, because we don't
ferment any of our sauces (which is the process you are asking about).

We use straight vinegar and chile peppers and let time age them, but
there is no fermentation going on and we don't add any salt to this.

I think that JT (John show me...)or fiedlermeister is the better expert
on fermentation or the people over on the harvest forum are also
extremely friendly and helpful.

I can try to answer your questions to the best of my abilities.
1. I would say it doesn't matter, I think if you go to tobasco's sight
they imply that the salt is a layer over the chile mash, but I can't
think why it would matter either way.
2. the fermentation process is going to lower your ph and give you an
end product with an acceptable ph. You can't artificially lower this
during the process without ruining the fermentation. In your excerpt
from pepperfool, I am not sure why they add the vinegar because that slows
your fermentation down. I do know that you do have to scrape out any
mold that grows and I believe as long as it is just surface mold and
white/fuzzy it is okay. Other colors I am not sure about.
Fermentation is going to have an optimum temp which is usually room
temp or a little warmer. The fridge won't help things either, it may
cause more mold but it also slows down fermentation.
3.I don't know, sorry..:)"
John A

    Bookmark   November 9, 2007 at 12:05PM
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