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When and how to pick cayenne peppers

Picking cayennes isn't complicated.
Copyright Jaipi Sixbear 2014

I know a thing or two about when and how to pick cayenne peppers. I always plant cayenne peppers in my garden. Some people here in the Southwest prefer jalapenos but I love cayenne and cherry peppers. Cayenne peppers bring a unique flavor to my favorite Mexican food recipes. When do you pick cayenne peppers? When they tell you they're ready.

Let the sun shine

First, here's a few tips on planting and growing cayenne peppers in your garden. These babies love the sun. The hotter the better. They hate heavily nitrogen based fertilizer. Use compost instead. They also love to be neglected. I guess that's why they grow so well for busy people like me. Let them go dry between watering. Their native climate is hot and dry. Cayenne peppers grow best in those conditions.


Cayenne and other peppers really light up a fall garden. Your cayenne peppers may change color several times before they are ready to pick. They usually start off green, then change to orange. The orange will darken to a bright cherry red. Some will go directly from green to red. When cayenne peppers are bright red all over, they are definitely ready to pick. However, you can pick them before they turn from green to red if you prefer them that way.


Cayenne peppers can be picked from the garden and used when green. They are much more flavorful when red. Green and red peppers will have a similar texture. They are both firm. The green peppers are firmer but there is only a small difference.

Note: Once cayenne peppers have been picked, they can be hung to dry, just like other peppers. You can also whirl them in a food processor, bag and freeze them. Actually, picked peppers can be prepared and used in such a wide variety of ways, it's probably best if we move on to the subject at hand.

Size and shape

A cayenne pepper is similar in shape to a jalapeno pepper, but thinner. Cayenne peppers can grow up to ten inches long. Most mature at about 6 or 7 inches. Once a cayenne pepper has reddened, it will likely grow no longer. A cayenne pepper will ripen in the sun once picked, but the flavor is much stronger when it ripens in the garden.

How to pick

Cayenne peppers are quite easy to pick. They can be pulled from the plant with just a slight twist of the wrist. Be sure to hold the plant when picking cayenne peppers to avoid damage. I can get several pickings off one cayenne pepper plant most of the time. For that reason, you want to keep the plant as healthy and undisturbed as possible when picking peppers.


Be prepared to pick a lot of peppers from your garden. Remember Peter Piper? Cayenne peppers grow like wildfire. One plant can produce fifty to a hundred peppers. Two plants produce enough for a family of four. The nice thing about cayenne peppers is you always have plenty to share with friends, neighbors and food banks. Don't forget, you can chop, can or freeze them for later use.

Portions of this article were previously published by this author on a now closed Yahoo! property.

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