Peppers don’t ripen like most other vegetables. They can be harvested and eaten at any size and color stage desired. Many mature pepper varieties start off green and gradually turn yellow or orange, and then turn red as they ripen. Some even turn white, light yellow, lilac or purple. They grow sweeter as they ripen toward their end-stage color.
Green bell peppers and other varieties are cheaper at their fully colored, mature stages because they are harvested more quickly. If left on the vine, they naturally change to their mature colors. When separated at the green stage, the maturation process continues, but more slowly. Green peppers are liable to wilt long before they change color. Once they begin changing color, they mature more quickly when picked.
To ripen a pepper after harvesting, wait until after it begins changing color. Cut the pepper from the vine with a sharp knife rather than pulling it. Pulling the pepper damages the vine. If you plan to use the pepper while green, there’s no need to ripen it after harvest. Fully green peppers wrinkle and spoil before changing color.
Many gardeners have successfully ripened peppers with tomatoes inside a brown paper bag with the top taped close. The theory is that the tomatoes give off ethylene gas, as the peppers ripen. The gas accelerates the ripening process. The color change won’t make the peppers sweeter. The sweetening process stops once you cut the pepper from the vine.
Mature green tomatoes and peppers stored in a paper bag at 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit ripen in about one to two weeks. Cooler temperatures slow the process. At 55 F, it takes three to four weeks. Cooler than that, and the fruit produced is inferior.
Chop, dice or cut the peppers into strips. Zip the peppers into freezer bags and place the bag in the freezer keeping them fresh for use in stews or cooked dishes. Peppers wrapped in plastic stay crisp for a week when refrigerated. They can also be dried for long-term storage or pickled and canned in jars.
- University of Minnesota Extension; Yard and Garden Brief – Peppers; by Beth R. Jarvis; March 1999
- Destiny Organics: Peppers
- University of Illinois Extension; Watch Your Garden Grow – Peppers; Ron Wolford, et al.
- AgriLife Extension Texas A&M System: Peppers
- The Ohio State University; Growing Peppers in the Home Garden; Marianne Riofrio
- Photo Credit Polka Dot Images/Polka Dot/Getty Images