How to Harvest Bell Peppers

Use these proper harvest techniques to safeguard the plants from damage and ensure the maximum production on the time invested in growing bell peppers in the home garden. Bell peppers can take up to 20 weeks from indoor sowing to harvesting the first green peppers, and even longer for red, ripe bell peppers.

When to Harvest

Pick bell peppers any time after they reach full size, usually 3 to 4 inches long with well-formed lobes. Depending on the intended use, harvest bell peppers green, or leave them to mature and turn red, orange or yellow. Ripe bell peppers are sweeter and have more vitamin C than green peppers.

Some bell pepper varieties are white or purple in their immature stages. To get the full effect of these cultivars, harvest the fruits when they are fully grown but before they ripen and turn red.

Bell peppers are a warm-weather crop and will not survive a frost. If a frost threatens, harvest bell peppers immediately. In areas with shorter growing seasons, bell peppers may not have time to ripen fully on the plant without season-extenders such as row covers or cloches.

How to Harvest Bell Peppers

Harvest bell peppers by cutting the pepper from the plant using a sharp knife, pruning clippers or shears. Cut as close to the branch as possible.

TIP: Our expert gardening advisor, Susan Patterson adds, "Always sterilize pruning or cutting tools, prior to using and after use, with hydrogen peroxide."

If frost threatens while your plant has many small peppers, bring the plant indoors to let the peppers mature in bright light and warmth. Dig the plant up, keeping as much of the garden soil around root ball as possible, and place the plant in a container at least 12 inches across and 12 inches deep with a good quality potting mix around the root ball.

Ripe bell peppers on a plant cause the plant to stop producing new peppers. To maximize fruit production, pick peppers frequently.


Refrigerate harvested bell peppers immediately after picking to reduce shriveling from water loss. Bell peppers keep about 3 weeks stored at 45 degrees F.

TIP: Susan suggests, "Store bell peppers in a brown bag in the fridge to prolong freshness."

Peppers harvested when they start to turn color will continue to ripen off the plant. Place in a bag with an apple or banana to accelerate ripening.

Mistakes to Avoid

Ripe bell peppers pull easily off the plant, but to avoid damaging the plant, harvest by cutting the stems. Pulling, twisting or breaking the pepper off the plant may snap off an entire branch.