Pepper Geek

When To Pick Ghost Peppers (With Pictures)

Posted on Last updated: 08/24/2023

The best part of gardening is the harvesting season. For new growers, it can be tough to know when to pick ghost peppers and other chilies. Thankfully, it is easy!

In this article, I’ll share how to know when to pick ghost peppers . I’ll also show our simple method for harvesting ghost peppers from the plant so you can get picking.

Harvesting a red ghost pepepr pod from the plant

Types Of Ghost Peppers

As with any common pepper cultivar, such as jalapeno, bell pepper, or cayenne, there are many different varieties of ghost pepper. Most growers focus on the classic red bhut jolokia, but there is a wide selection, each with its own unique characteristics.

Different ghost pepper types may ripen to red, dark green, mustard, brown, orange, yellow, or peach . In this article, we’ll focus on harvesting the classic red ghost pepper, but here are a few other types that you may be growing.

Jay's Peach Ghost Scorpion Peppers

Ghost Pepper Growth Stages

To understand when to harvest ghost peppers, it is helpful to know the plant’s stages. Since ghost pepper plants are not as common as other varieties, you are likely growing yours from a young age. Here are the four main ghost pepper growth stages with pictures.

1. Seedling stage . Ghost peppers start off growing very slowly, developing their first sets of leaves and establishing a root system. The plants are fragile at this stage and should be kept under grow lights for 14-16 hours per day.

Pepper Seedling Trays

2. Vegetative stage . After the seedlings have been alive for 3-4 weeks, ghost peppers are transplanted into larger containers. Transplanting at the right time is important to avoid root bound plants and to maintain consistent and speedy growth. The length of this stage will be dependent on container size, with smaller containers leading to earlier flowering.

Bhut Jolokia Solid Gold pepper plant

3. Flowering and fruiting . Once a ghost pepper plant reaches a mature size, it will begin producing flowers. Flowers ultimately become the fruits, so the more buds the better. Pollinators such as bees and flies will fertilize flowers and initiate fruiting. Fruits typically take 1-2 weeks to reach a full size.

Ghost Pepper Flower

4. Ripening stage . After ghost pepper fruits reach their full size, they will begin the ripening process. This stage will test your patience, as ghost peppers can take 4-6 weeks to change color and become fully ripe!

Underside of ripening ghost pepper plant bhut jolokia

How Long Do Ghost Peppers Take To Grow (Time to Harvest)?

Ghost peppers are among the Capsicum chinense species, and most varieties within this species require a long growing season. From planting to harvesting ripe ghost peppers can take anywhere from 130-150 days (4.5+ months) or longer !

In our experience, ghost pepper plants will not produce too many peppers when temperatures are very high (above 90°F). In fact, our plants usually produce best later in the season, after the hottest part of the summer is over.

When To Pick Ghost Peppers

How can you tell when a ghost pepper is ready to be picked? The best way to know when to pick ghost peppers is to wait for the pepper to change its color .

For example, red ghost peppers will ripen from green to a bright red color when they are fully mature. Never pick a ghost pepper before it has ripened (unless you have to).

Red ghost pepper changing color on plant.

How long does it take? Once you see your ghost pepper begin to change color, it should be fully ripe within 7-10 days. This will depend on the weather conditions, but in general it is pretty quick.

One other thing to consider before harvesting is seed saving. If you plan to save the seeds from one of your ghost peppers, leave the pepper on the plant to ripen for an additional week after changing colors. This will ensure the seeds inside are fully developed before the pepper is removed from the plant.

Will Ghost Peppers Change Color Off The Plant?

After picking a pepper that was not fully ripe, will it continue to change color? This depends largely on the stage at which the pod was harvested.

If you pick a ghost pepper that was partially ripe (color had begun to change), then it will continue to ripen through to its final color.

Black Panther orange pod partially ripe

However, if you pick a very immature green ghost pepper, there is a good chance that it will not change colors off the plant. Green ghost peppers are still edible (and will have plenty of heat and flavor).

How To Pick Ghost Peppers

If you are not sure how to safely harvest ghost peppers, there are some simple techniques that we recommend. Thankfully, the outer skin of ghost peppers do not contain any capsaicin, so harvesting bare handed is okay (as long as you are careful).

  • Find ripe peppers (color fully changed)
  • Hold green stem
  • Pull up and away from the plant

Tip: If you are nervous about getting capsaicin on your hands (peppers can break open while picking), wear a pair of nitrile gloves . Nitrile are the only type we have tried that truly keeps the oils from getting through to your skin.

To better illustrate how easy harvesting ghost peppers is, watch our video below. The plant in the video was about 7 months old when we harvested about 150 ripe pods from it.

Watch us harvest our huge ghost pepper plant (video):

Will Ghost Peppers Continue Producing?

So you’ve harvested the ghost peppers from your plant, but will it continue to produce peppers? Or do ghost pepper plants die after they fruit?

Thankfully, ghost peppers are perennial in nature, meaning that they can live for many years, producing many flushes of fruits . They will require nutrients, warmth, and plenty of sunshine to produce another strong harvest.

What will kill a ghost pepper plant is freezing weather. Most growers in winter climates will allow plants to die in the cold weather. I always leave late peppers out as long as possible before the first frost comes.

If you don’t want to let your plant die, you can always overwinter it and keep it alive indoors until next spring. This may or may not be worth the effort to you, but if you have a healthy plant, it is an option.

Can I Pick Ghost Peppers Before They Ripen?

As the season draws to a close, you are likely to have some unripe ghost peppers left on the plant. This can cause a dilemma; leave the plants out and risk frost damage, or pick the peppers early?

In short, ghost peppers can be eaten unripe (green), but will likely have less heat and less sweetness . If you can, always wait for the peppers to ripen to their final color before picking.

Unripe Ghost Peppers

If temperatures are dropping into the 40s (Fahrenheit) or lower, you can bring potted plants into a warm room overnight to prolong the season a few weeks. In-ground plants can be protected from cold weather with protective row cover fabric .

Are Ripe Ghost Peppers Hotter?

If you’re growing ghost peppers, you probably want them to be as spicy as possible, right? Well, thankfully this topic has been studied from many different angles.

In this study , peppers were found to produce optimal capsaicin levels around 45-50 days after fruit set. After that, the capsaicin levels declined.

Based on these results, your ghost peppers should be at their hottest about 6 weeks after setting fruits , or right around the time the peppers change color. Learn more about growing hotter peppers .

Tips for growing hotter ghost peppers:

  • Keep them warm . Warmer climates tend to grow hotter peppers, and particularly, warm nighttime temperatures. If you have a greenhouse, use it to keep the plants warm through fall.
  • Water less after fruits form . Reducing watering after the fruits form has been shown to increase capsaicin levels.
  • Fertilize with higher nitrogen . If you’re going for heat, it has been shown that hot peppers become hotter with more nitrogen during fruiting. They also become hotter under stressful conditions, with very low nitrogen availability.

I hope this article helps you know when to pick ghost peppers from your plants. Harvesting is the most exciting part of growing hot peppers, and I hope you enjoy the heat!

  • How to grow ghost peppers from seed
  • Jay’s peach ghost scorpion pepper
  • Where to buy ghost peppers
  • All about ghost peppers

Calvin Thumbnail

One of the original Pepper Geeks! When Calvin isn’t gardening or learning more about peppers and botany, he might be traveling new places or playing some music.

Wednesday 13th of September 2023

When does the ghost pepper turn white? I have a Joekpa white ghost chilli plant, most the fruit has turned red but nothing more? Have I been misold the type of chilli or is this just a process prior to turning white??

Friday 15th of September 2023

Sounds like it may not be the variety promised by your seed seller. This often happens when the variety is unstable, some of the plant's characteristics can revert

Sean Traxler

Saturday 22nd of April 2023

What time should I expect the plant to flower? I am around 5-6 weeks in, as the weather where I live is very hot, but still no flowering

David Preston

Thursday 15th of June 2023

@Sean Traxler, my ghost pepper plants started flowering at the beginning of June... lots of flowers now, and some small fruits have set, just two weeks later. I put mine outside (small transplants) in mid April, in Tulsa, OK, zone 7a. So, that would be approximately 6 weeks from transplant, perhaps as much as 9 to 10 weeks from germination. You should definitely have fruits by now, even if your 5-6 weeks was based on planting or germination date.

jim nashwinter

Tuesday 6th of December 2022

Richard Ahern

Sunday 28th of August 2022

good read I have problems with reaper leaves are curling

I have some Purple Bhut Jolokia peppers that are producing beautifully and the colourscare amazing going from green, to light Purple to Purple to almost black/purple.

I have read that they will turn red but when should they be harvested?

Monday 29th of August 2022

Ghosts are always best picked fully ripe for flavor and heat. However, you can pick one or two early to see if you like the unripe taste.

Bountiful Gardener

When to Harvest Your Ghost Peppers

The ghost pepper, also called bhut jolokia or bih jolokia , is one of the most famous of the superhot chili peppers, considered the world’s hottest in 2007. Some argue it’s the threshold between very hot and superhot. Either way, it’s a face melter.

But it’s not just about pure heat. Ghost peppers are also highly aromatic and flavorful when added to dishes, and make excellent  chili powder  (my preferred way to use them). So, if you’re growing them, you’re in for a real treat.

Generally, from the moment you see your first ghost pepper sprout, it should take at least 5 months to harvest your first ripe ghost pepper pod. Because of this, it’s recommended to start your ghost pepper seeds indoors 1 to 2 months before your average last frost date to ensure you get a harvest before the end of the growing season.

On this page:

From Seed to Harvest – How Long Should It Take?

While peppers do take some time to ripen , superhot peppers like ghost peppers are notoriously slow but will give you dozens or sometimes hundreds of peppers. The seeds also tend to take longer to germinate than other pepper varieties. My ghost pepper seeds usually take 1 to 2 weeks to germinate, but it can sometimes take over a month.

what do ghost peppers look like when ripe

In fact, if you have a short growing season and you’re sowing seeds outdoors, you might not get any ripe ghost peppers to harvest. I always recommend sowing your ghost pepper seeds indoors, at least 1 to 2 months before your average last frost date, in order to get a harvest before the end of the season.

Expect to wait at least 5 months to harvest your first ripe ghost pepper, possibly up to 6 months from planting the seeds.

Let me give you an example from my garden. I planted the all my pepper seeds indoors on March 17, and transplanted them outside in late May. My sweet, mild, and semi-hot peppers were ripening as early as June and July. However, my two hottest pepper plants (at least as hot as a habanero ) didn’t start ripening their peppers until the first week of August.

In my experience, growing in hydroponics tends to give me pepper harvests more quickly, but you will still be waiting at least 4 months if you’re growing ghost peppers hydroponically. Hydroponics won’t make your peppers ripen faster but will overall increase the rate that your pepper plants grow and mature.

How to Tell if Ghost Peppers are Ready to Harvest

Ghost peppers reach peak ripeness and peak heat when they completely turn their final color, which is normally red. This is the best time to harvest ghost peppers if using them fresh.

While you can harvest green, unripe ghost peppers, they at their hottest and most flavorful when fully ripe. Ghost pepper pods should be somewhat firm and have a vibrant red color. If they are soft, they are either overripe (which is completely fine to pick and eat) or are starting to rot on the plant before ripening.

Note that there are lots of ghost pepper varieties that come in different colors, such as yellow, orange, peach, brown, yellow-green, and white. Some varieties of ghost pepper will change to orange before finally ripening to red. A lot of “chili heads” say the yellow and peach ghost peppers have more fruity or citrus notes, but I can’t tell because they melt my face off.

Can I Harvest Green (Unripe) Ghost Peppers?

Yes! Ghost peppers are perfectly fine to eat if unripe. Ideally, you should wait until they reach their full size (stop growing) before picking. Ripe ghost peppers have more heat and more flavor, but traditionally, green ghost peppers have also been used in sauces, curries, and stirfries.

How to Harvest Ghost Peppers

Ghost peppers are very easy to harvest. Use a pair of scissors and snip them off.

You can also pick them by hand, grabbing them by the stem attached to the pepper and tugging. Be careful not to rip off part of the branch.

I don’t wear gloves when harvesting ghost peppers, but if you’re very sensitive to them, or if you’re picking a lot at the same time, wear them. As long as you don’t pierce or tear the peppers, releasing the juice inside, ghost peppers are safe to handle for short periods of time.

Other articles you might like:

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Positivebloom

When To Pick Ghost Peppers And What To Do With Them

By Author Lindsey Hall

Posted on Last updated: March 13, 2023

Categories GARDENING TIPS

When To Pick Ghost Peppers And What To Do With Them

Sharing is caring!

If you have decided to spice up your garden by planting some chili peppers, and you need to know when the right time to harvest your peppers is, this is the article for you!

Don’t worry if you are a gardening newbie, it’s not that hard to determine whether your peppers are ripe. Gardeners often choose Ghost peppers because they have a fruity, spicy flavor, which is why we use them to make hot sauces when we want to add a touch of spiciness to our meals.

In addition to this, they are easy to take care of and were once proclaimed as the world’s hottest peppers, so they are pretty famous!

If you have planted the seeds and now you are not sure about when to pick ghost peppers, continue reading this article to find out the answer and more!

How To Know When To Pick Ghost Peppers

ghost pepper on a wooden table

If a few months pass by after planting your Ghost pepper seeds, and your other hot peppers are fully matured while your Ghost peppers still look unripe, don’t worry!

There’s nothing wrong with your peppers, they just need a little bit more time to fully mature. Even though you have to wait a little bit longer, your Ghost pepper plants will eventually produce a lot of fruit in one growing season.

When to pick Ghost peppers actually depends on your intentions with them, for instance, if you want to make super hot sauces you should pick them at their peak of ripeness. If you don’t want your peppers to be extremely spicy, you harvest them a bit earlier.

You only really have to look at the color of your new peppers to determine their ripeness.

Ripe Ghost peppers will have a prominent red color and firm structure, which is the best time to pick them if you prefer eating them fresh.

If the ripe peppers are kind of soft and wrinkly, it usually means they are overripe, but you can still eat them. (Be careful though, because in this state they are extremely hot!)

In the beginning, the plant will start producing green peppers. They are unripe and slightly less spicy compared to peppers that have reached full maturity. You can pick unripe peppers if you don’t want your mouth to burn like hell!

Bear in mind that there are different Ghost pepper varieties that have different colors: yellow, peach, orange, brown, white… it really depends on the type of Ghost plant!

How Long Should It Take?

Prepare yourself for a long gardening journey when growing Ghost pepper plants. They have a very long growing season compared to other plants.

They usually take about 5 months to reach full maturity, although sometimes it can take a bit longer. I waited 6 months for my ghost peppers, but it was totally worth it!

Even Ghost pepper seedlings require more time to germinate. You usually have to wait about 2 weeks for germination, but sometimes it can take a month.

If you want to have peppers ready by the end of the growing season, I would suggest you start your plant indoors about 2 months before the last frost, then transplant them outside when the temperature gets warmer.

How do you pick a Ghost pepper?

It’s quite easy to harvest your freshly grown peppers, just use scissors to snip them off!

If you don’t have any, you can simply use your hands, but be careful not to rip off the entire plant! I would suggest you wear gloves when harvesting ghost peppers, especially if you have sensitive skin.

You should wear safety goggles as well, because you might accidentally tear the pepper and the juice can get in your eyes – this happened to me and I thought I was going blind!

More About Ghost Peppers

fresh ghost peppers

Ghost peppers are actually a hybrid plant made by crossing Capsicum Chinense with Capsicum Frutescens. Bhut Jolokia and Naga Morich are different names for this type of pepper, although we call it Ghost pepper most of the time.

Ghost peppers are not scary looking, but they are scary tasting! With 1,041,427 Scoville Heat units (SHU), it was certified as the hottest pepper in 2007 by the Guinness book of World Records!

Unfortunately, it was beaten pretty quickly because it seems like cultivators are competing with each other to see who can breed chili peppers with the highest SHU.

Today, ghost chili peppers are in the top five peppers on the Scoville scale , together with Carolina reapers and Habanero peppers.

The Scoville scale measures the amount of capsaicin present in the peppers, which is a chemical agent that makes them spicy.

There are numerous types of Ghost peppers, and they slightly differ in heat levels and color, but their plantation and care guides are practically the same.

Types of Ghost Pepper Plants

Orange, yellow, red, white, brown, and peach – these are the colors of different Ghost pepper varieties. If you want to have a colorful garden, you might as well plant different types of peppers!

Other than their different colors, are there any other differences?

Read on to find out the answer.

1. Red Ghost Pepper

As the hottest among all the Ghost pepper varieties with 1,041,427 SHU, the Red Ghost pepper is a popular pepper with a somewhat smoky, and very spicy flavor.

It starts off as a small, green baby pepper that develops into this big pepper with a fiery red color. Wrinkled skin is a sign of a fully matured pepper, which is the perfect time to harvest your peppers and eat them fresh – if you dare!

2. Yellow Ghost Pepper

With slightly lower heat levels, the Yellow Ghost pepper is a close relative of the Red Ghost pepper, albeit with lower heat levels. Nonetheless, it is still a super hot pepper that is actually 125 times hotter than Jalapeno peppers!

A special thing about this plant is that it isn’t a hybrid; it is naturally found in the United States, which is pretty uncommon for chile peppers with 855,000 SHU.

3. Orange Ghost Pepper

Orange Ghost peppers have a citrusy, sweet flavor, but this doesn’t mean they’re lacking any spiciness, don’t you worry.

It is a fast-grower compared to other Ghost pepper varieties, and it has somewhat smoother pods.

Orange Ghost peppers are similar to the Orange Habanero, as they’re both prevalently used to make hot sauces and jams!

4. White Ghost Pepper

This Ghost pepper variety is probably the only one that actually looks like a little white ghost. We often think of the color red when it comes to chili peppers, but in this case you should still be careful!

This white little devil is extremely hot, and you will definitely need a fire extinguisher when eating fresh White Ghost pepper!

The White Ghost pepper plant grows relatively small compared to other types, but sometimes big things come in small packages!

5. Green Ghost Pepper

The Green Ghost pepper is probably the most popular type, just because all of the Ghost peppers were once green!

This means that it can be tricky to detect the ripeness of Green Ghost peppers, and you might not know when to pick ghost peppers in this case. The best thing to do is investigate the texture, and if it’s wrinkly, then it’s probably ripe.

The Green Ghost pepper is slightly less spicy than the Red Ghost Pepper, and it has a fruity flavor which is often used for making hot sauces.

6. Purple Ghost Pepper

The edgy one among the Ghost Pepper varieties! The Purple Ghost Pepper has a prominent purple color and looks just like a plum.

However, if you leave them to grow a little bit longer, they will change color to red, which is an indicator of complete ripeness.

They grow smaller pods compared to other peppers, although they are not as hot as the rest of the Ghost pepper plants.

If you don’t like extremely hot peppers, the Purple Ghost Pepper is the right choice for you.

7. Peach Ghost Pepper

I should warn you now – they do not taste like peaches at all!

This type of Ghost Pepper got its name because of its color, which resembles the color of a peach.

They grow the largest of them all. The plant can grow about 6 inches tall, and the peppers change color to orange when fully ripe.

8. Chocolate Ghost Pepper

Can you guess how these got their name?

That’s right, they taste exactly like chocolate…not!

Though they have a sweet aftertaste, they are just as spicy as the Red Ghost pepper. They got their name because these peppers change color to brown as they mature.

Chocolate Ghost peppers are aromatic and they have a smoky flavor, which can be used as a perfect touch of spiciness in salsas and sauces.

How To Plant Ghost Peppers

ghost pepper seedlings

Buying the seeds is the easy part, but how do you actually plant the pepper seedlings?

As they have a relatively long growing season, I would recommend you start your peppers indoors at least 8 weeks before the last frost.

You should put the seeds in water the night before planting to soften them a little bit.

Prepare some small pots for your seeds by filling them with proper potting soil. You can use a universal potting mixture combined with peat moss. After sowing the seeds, provide them with a warm temperature and keep the soil moist.

The germination will probably occur in the first two weeks, however sometimes it can take a month for the seeds to germinate. When you see the little sprouts, provide them with enough sunlight.

After your baby ghost pepper has grown from 4 to 6 inches, it’s time for them to leave the nest, that is, to transplant them outside. At this growing stage , the seedlings are ready to grow outside!

A week before transplantation, provide your seedlings with a lower temperature to harden them by moving your pots somewhere sunny outdoors and leaving them for a few hours.

Transplantation

Dig a hole large enough to fit the root ball of your plant, and carefully transplant the plant into the hole. Bear in mind that the plants should be at least 30 inches apart from each other.

I know that growing hot peppers indoors takes a lot of time and energy, which is why you can buy pre-prepped plants ready for transplantation!

How To Grow Ghost Pepper Plants

ghost pepper plant

The trick to growing Ghost Pepper plants is to mimic their environment by providing them with hot and humid conditions.

Between this and the long growing season, Ghost pepper plants are pretty hard to cultivate. However, it’s worth it in the end!

If you are patient enough and follow the care guide below, you will be able to grow delicious chile peppers in your own garden and use them to make the perfect hot sauce!

Ghost pepper plants thrive in well-draining and nutrient-rich soil, with pH levels between 6.0 to 6.8 (you should do a soil test before planting).

When it comes to soil temperature, at least 73 degrees Fahrenheit will keep your pepper plant happy and healthy!

Ghost pepper plants don’t like soggy soil as it can lead to root rot, so you should water them thoroughly at least once a week.

However, the watering requirements depend on a lot of different factors like humidity and temperature, so maybe your pepper plants might need a bit more water than usual.

It would be best to see if the soil has dried before watering. If you don’t mind getting your hands a little dirty, use your thumb to see whether the soil is dry or moist and if it’s dry, water it, and if not, then water it in a few days.

Make sure not to over water your plant. In addition to root rot, it can really mess up the flavor of your peppers and they will have a bitter taste instead of spicy.

Temperature

Ghost peppers thrive best in warm climates, especially in regions where it’s super hot! The climate is linked to the flavor: higher temperatures actually affect the spiciness of the peppers, making them much hotter than usual.

Anyway, these peppers enjoy temperatures ranging from 70 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Anything below would damage your plant.

Be aware that they don’t like changing temperatures, so gardeners often grow them in a greenhouse or even indoors.

As they thrive in warmer climates, Ghost pepper plants absolutely love growing in full sun! They should get at least six hours of direct sunlight every day.

If you are growing them indoors, make sure to place them in a window that gets direct sunlight throughout the day. Your plant will love it!

Fertilizers

Fertilizers are food for plants, and your pepper plant needs nutrients to provide you with those delicious, hot chillies.

When it comes to fertilizer, your Ghost pepper plant will eat up a fertilizer high in potassium! Potassium is an important nutrient for pepper production.

They do not like fertilizers that contain high amounts of nitrogen, as they can cause overproduction of foliage, and your plant will focus on growing leaves instead of fruit.

You should apply fertilizer right after planting, and then two times throughout the growing season. Do not over fertilize your plant as it can lead to chemical build up that suffocates the roots.

Mulch is also added around the plants to retain moisture and prevent weed growth.

For more information about how to grow ghost peppers, click on this video:

Ghost Peppers Use

ghost peppers in a basket

Due to the fact that they were once the hottest peppers in the world, surely they are going to be used to add a little bit of spice to meals and dishes.

You can eat them fresh, and they will have a fruity and somewhat sweet flavor at first, followed by extreme spiciness that will make you cry.

First onions, now the peppers – what’s up with vegetables making us cry all the time? It is like we are in a toxic relationship… but hey, at least we don’t have to worry about the spiciness. 😉

Anyway, let’s continue our list of Ghost Peppers uses: you can also dry them in the oven, then grind them into powders and voila!

Congratulations, you just made your very own chili powder.

However, they are mostly used to make hot sauces and salsas. If you harvest a large batch, don’t leave them to rot – you can always make delicious sauces and give them to your friends and family (they will either love you or hate you, depending on their personal taste!).

Even if you are not the biggest fan of spicy foods, I would recommend you at least try and eat one because Ghost Peppers are super beneficial to our health.

Capsaicin alone can improve your gut health so much, from killing the harmful bacteria and preventing illness, to speeding up your metabolism, which can lead to weight loss. Along with that, Ghost peppers can provide you with the recommended daily intake of vitamin C.

The Best Ghost Pepper Hot Sauce Recipe

If you have been wondering what to do with a large batch of ghost peppers, you have come to the right place!

I would recommend you make hot sauces. You can add small amounts to any meal and make it spicy, or you can use it to dip your foods in, which really comes in handy during the winter! Just take a drop of your sauce and it will immediately warm you up!

Don’t worry, you don’t have to spend that much energy and time to make the sauce – it is super easy. Simply follow the instructions below and make sure to wear safety gloves!

Ingredients:

• 1 tablespoon olive oil • 6 bhut jolokia peppers ghost peppers, chopped • 1 small onion diced • 2 medium tomatoes chopped • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar • 1 teaspoon salt • ½ cup water

Instructions:

1. Prepare your pan and heat some oil, then add diced onions and chopped peppers.

2. Stir the onions a bit, then add tomatoes and cook for 10 minutes.

3. Add water, vinegar, and salt to the pan and stir for about 20 minutes to let the flavors develop.

4. Put your mixture into the food processor to make it smoother.

5. Then, transfer this mixture into glass jars or glass bottles, seal them, and put them into the fridge.

The Best Ghost Pepper Hot Sauce Recipe

Frequently Asked Questions

1. what should the skin of a ghost pepper look like.

Most ripe Ghost peppers have smooth skin with a wrinkle on the side, however overripe peppers will have much more wrinkly skin and will be a lot spicier. You can eat an overripe pepper if you have the stomach for it!

2. Are Ghost peppers hot when green?

Even when unripe, these green Ghost peppers can still burn you! They are slightly less hot compared to fully mature plants, but remember that we are talking about super hot peppers with over a million SHU, so even a tiny fraction of this can be super spicy.

3. What are some mildly hot peppers?

There are many chili peppers on the Scoville scale, starting from those that have 0 SHU (like Bell peppers), to middle ones that have up to 50,000 SHU (like cayenne peppers), and finally those that have over a million SHU (like the Carolina Reaper).

Mildly hot peppers according to the Scoville scale are Anaheim, Banana peppers, Poblanos, and Cherry peppers.

Ghost peppers are annual plants with a long growing season, which is why people often don’t know when to pick ghost peppers.

It is pretty easy though, just make sure you know which Ghost pepper variety you are growing and observe the color changes. Green peppers are usually unripe, while red, orange, yellow, or purple usually indicate full maturity.

You should know that these peppers are extremely spicy no matter the growth stage!

If you love super hot food, then you will absolutely love these super hot Ghost peppers. You should try your luck and grow them in your own garden. How cool would it be to use your own homemade salsa when eating chips and watching your favorite show?

However, if you don’t want to spend time and energy growing and cooking, then go to any grocery store and look for a hot sauce – you will definitely find one made out of Ghost peppers.

If you are not a fan of spiciness, then do not, I repeat DO NOT try to eat them!

Until next time!

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What Color are Ghost Peppers When Ripe

What Color Are Ghost Peppers When Ripe?

Ghost peppers become a bright, rich red color when fully ripe. The peppers start out green over their first few weeks on the plant. After growing for about 4 weeks, the peppers will begin to show shades of orange and shift over to being bright red after two more weeks. 

If the peppers are left on the plant for too long, they will begin to show some black spotting at the top or bottom. The stems will typically dry up at this point and the peppers will continue showing a shade darker once they've fallen from the plant. 

Want more information? Find out what a ghost pepper looks like here.

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How to Tell When a Ghost Pepper is Ripe?

Bhut Jolokia or Ghost pepper isn’t the easiest pepper plant to grow, but if your plant has produced beautiful red fruit, you may wonder if the fruit is ripe and ready to be harvested.

You can tell when a Ghost pepper is ripe by the vibrant red (or yellow, brown, or peach, depending on the variety) color. The skin will be wrinkled with no hint of green visible on the pod. The fruit should be 2-3 inches (5-8 cms) long, which normally happens between 100-160 days after planting.

The intense spice and smoky flavors of this pepper is an acquired taste suited to chili connoisseurs the world around. Here are some ways to tell if your Ghost chili is ready to set your taste buds aflame.

Photo of a fiery hot ripe ghost pepper on a white back drop

Key Characteristics of Ripe Ghost Peppers

Ghost peppers go through a series of color changes on their way to full maturity and start as a relatively common green shade. The next stages include yellow, then orange, until they reach fiery red at full maturity. Ripe Ghost peppers will typically have the following key characteristics:

  • A slight wrinkle to the pepper’s skin
  • A bright red fruit without any other color traces such as orange or yellow.
  • The mature ghost pepper (excepting the peach variety) should reach two inches (5.1 cms) to three inches (7.6 cms) long when fully grown.
  • It’s been at least 100-160 days since the seeds were planted.

Ghost peppers need a long and hot growing season to reach full maturity and rarely mature before late summer. When harvesting ripe peppers, wear gloves and pick a well-ventilated area for cutting and preparing the pods.

What Colors do Ripe Ghost Peppers Come in?

The most common color of a ripe Ghost chili is red, but it can exhibit several colors when fully matured.

Red Bhut Jolokia

The red Ghost pepper is the most commonly found Ghost chili variety and one that Americans will most easily recognize. It averages 1,041,427 SHUs on the Scoville scale and starts by growing a bright green fruit that gradually matures into a red fruit of about 2-3 inches (5.1-7.6 cms) long. Some red Ghost peppers are smooth-skinned in maturity, but more often, ripe red Ghost peppers exhibit wrinkled textured skin.

Yellow Bhut Jolokia

The yellow Ghost pepper is another variety of Ghost chili found in the U.S. and is similar in flavor, shape, and spiciness to the red Ghost chili. It also exhibits a green color before gradually turning yellow as the plant matures. The chili pods also grow to 2-3 inches (5.1-7.6 cms.) long and may exhibit a wrinkled or smooth texture when fully ripe.

Chocolate Bhut Jolokia

The chocolate Ghost chili is a coveted variety of the Bhut Jolokia strain but is not as common as the red and yellow varieties. This variety is said to have a sweet and smoky flavor much coveted by chili connoisseurs. The mature chocolate chile turns a brown hue and typically shows a dimpled and wrinkled appearance when fully ripe.

Peach Bhut Jolokia

The peach Ghost pepper tends to exhibit larger fruit than the other varieties and may reach up to 4 inches (10.2 cms.) long when fully ripe. The fruit turns gradually from green to a peach color as the chili matures and exhibits orange hues when left to ripen fully on the plant. It has a similar heat to the red Ghost pepper, and some say its flavor is fruitier than the red variety.

Do Ghost Peppers Get Spicier as They Ripen?

Ghost peppers increase in heat as they mature, reaching a peak intensity of spiciness 60 days after flowering . According to a scientific study, Bhut Jolokia develops capsaicinoids earlier than other chili species, only ten days after flowering, which slowly increase until they reach their maximum levels 60 days after flowering . This late capsaicinoid development may be behind the substantially high heat levels of the Ghost pepper.

The study, using a sensitive mass spectrometry method, found that the other chili species begin to develop capsaicinoids only 20 days after flowering with a peak at 40 days, gradually declining until 60 days after flowering. This lengthier maturation in terms of capsaicinoids allows the Ghost pepper, in particular, to develop its spiciness properly.

How Long Does it Take a Ghost Pepper to Turn From Green to Red (on the Plant)?

According to the University of New Mexico , Bhut Jolokia has a relatively long growing period and may take between 36 and 70 days to germinate after planting. Environmental factors may increase or decrease the growth rate, but the Ghost chili may take up to 160 days from planting to complete the maturation stage for harvesting.

Bhut Jolokia is an interspecific breed, meaning that it is the product of two different species within the same genus, making it challenging to self-pollinate.

Growers generally accept that a Ghost pepper should take between 100 and 120 days between planting and harvest. Although the chili can be harvested in its green stage, the intensity of heat is less, and the flavors more ‘tart’ than the fully matured chili.

Will Ghost Peppers Continue to Ripen off the Plant? How Long Does This Take?

Ghost peppers will still ripen and get hotter even after being harvested under the right conditions.

The chili’s burn is directly related to its capsaicin content. Capsaicin, or 8-methyl-N-vanillyl-6-nonenamide , is one of several alkaloids called capsaicinoids that cause a burning sensation when swallowed. Experts suggest that chili peppers produce these alkaloids as a defense mechanism against certain mammals and fungi.

Capsaicin is present in the tissue that holds the chili seeds, or the inner membranes, and is evident to a lesser degree in the plant’s fruit.

In a scientific study conducted in Ethiopia , several chili species showed a substantial increase in these volatile alkaloids after harvesting, most notably those stored at an ambient temperature. The capsaicin content increased by an average of 2.3 percent at the peak of twelve days at ambient storage, which was 16 percent higher than those stored in an evaporative cooler.

This intensifying of alkaloids shows that Ghost peppers will still ripen and get hotter even after being harvested under the right conditions. Some simple ways to ripen Ghost peppers is to leave them on a sunny windowsill or store them with a ripe tomato or apple. Both methods will likely take a few days or a week.

Here are Some of my Favorite Gardening Products and Tools

Thank you for reading this article. I hope you found it helpful for growing some new plants in your home or garden. Here are some products I like that I hope you’ll also find helpful. These are affiliate links, and I am compensated for referring traffic. But in all honesty, these are the exact product that I use or recommend to everyone.

Soil:  For high-quality soil, I really like  Fox Farm Ocean Forest . I do all my growing in containers and this soil has worked great for me. I like how they use nutrient-rich contents like earthworm castings, bat guano, and composted crab and fish.

Fertilizer:  Currently I am using a seaweed-based organic fertilizer call Neptunes Harvest . This is a great milder fertilizer option if you want to use something organic. If you want a more powerful fertilizer, I recommend Fox Farm Liquid Nutrient Trio , lots of people have had great growing success with this product.

Pruning Shears:  Pruning shears are one of the most useful gardening tools to have because it’s important to prune your plants to keep them healthy. The pruning shears I recommend are the Gonicc 8’’ pruning shears . I like them because they are built sturdy and work both on bigger and smaller plants, so you don’t need to have multiple pruning shears.

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what do ghost peppers look like when ripe

When To Harvest Ghost Peppers: Garden Tips 2023

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when to harvest ghost peppers

Love spicy food? If so, you must know about ghost peppers, which once were the hottest in the world.

That said, there’s more to ghost peppers than their hotness, which is why many home gardeners grow them in their gardens.

Fortunately, with warm temperatures and plenty of suns, you will find them easy to grow to maturity.

When to harvest ghost peppers? Ghost pepper fruits take more than five months to mature. They will start from green to a glowing red color, which is when they are the hottest and most flavorful.

How Do You Know When Your Ghost Peppers Are Ready to Harvest?

The ghost pepper is a hybrid chili pepper that is refined in northeast India. Even though it is a hybrid, it is still a pepper.

With a SHU rating of over a million, consuming too much ghost pepper can cause seizures and heart attacks.

To give you an idea, it is actually estimated to be around 170 times more intense than Tabasco sauce and about 416 times hotter than a mild jalapeño.

You can grow different varieties, but the most common is red ghost pepper. Here’s how you can tell if the fruits are ready for picking:

The Color and Firmness

Ghost peppers will change colors from green to red. Roughly speaking, this entire process can take four to six weeks or longer.

Ripe ghost peppers can be anywhere from two to three inches long and about an inch wide.

If you like green ghost peppers, harvest them when they are about a golf ball size. For orange ones, wait until they become tennis ball size.

For the most flavorful of all, it’s best to harvest red ghost peppers when they are the size of a small apple.

Aside from the color, how firm the fruit is can also tell you if it is ripe enough for picking.

To check, look for a red ghost pepper and squeeze it gently, making sure you don’t bruise it. It should not be too stiff or too soft.

If you find the fruit too soft, it could already be overripe, so harvest them all before they begin to rot.

Ghost peppers require a long growing season, so they are often started indoors two to three months before the last frost date in spring.

You then move them outdoors once nighttime temperatures don’t go anywhere below 60 degrees.

Depending on where you are, harvest time will likely be late summer to early fall or when temperatures have gone down to

As mentioned, ghost peppers have a long growing season.

From sowing the seeds to harvest time, you will have to wait anywhere from three to five months, depending on the climate in your area.

How quickly they grow varies largely based on the moisture content and warmth of the soil.

If you plant the seeds around the third or fourth of April, you can expect harvest time around late August to late September.

What Happens if You Don’t Harvest Ghost Peppers? 

Ghost peppers are a hybrid of chili peppers and will change colors from green to yellow to red.

Provided with the ideal growing conditions, you won’t need to be an expert gardener to grow ghost peppers.

That said, not harvesting the fruits at the right time will result in overripe ghost peppers.

Around this time, the fruits will become too soft and harder to harvest because the capsaicin might get on your skin and burn you.

Even if that’s the case, it doesn’t mean all your hard work is for naught. You can still harvest and dry overripe ghost peppers.

Also, don’t expect the flavor and hotness to be at their highest around this time.

If you want to continue growing ghost peppers, you can save the seeds.

To do this, just leave one ghost pepper fruit on the plant for one extra week after its skin becomes red.

After that, the seeds inside the fruit will have completely developed.

How To Harvest Ghost Peppers?

how to harvest ghost peppers

After patiently waiting for months, it’s finally time to enjoy the fruits of your hard work!

Again, harvesting ghost peppers are slightly trickier than other peppers because of their high level of capsaicin .

As such, it’s important that you practice caution by wearing appropriate safety gear.

Step 1: Plan your harvest.

Once you’re sure the fruits are mature enough, you can now prepare for harvesting. Basically, the steps to picking ghost peppers are similar to other peppers.

For instance, the ideal time to start harvesting them is around nine to 10 in the morning, just after the morning dew has dried.

Expect each healthy plant to have a maximum yield of 50 fruits at any one time.

With the right growing conditions, you might be lucky enough to have more than one harvest.

However, because they have a longer growing season, their cycle may be less than other chili pepper varieties.

Step 2: Prepare your tools and gloves.

To prevent skin irritations and burns, wearing nitrile gloves when handling ghost peppers is a must.

You will also want to use sharp scissors or pruning shears to reduce your contact with the fruit and its oils.

Using such tools also guarantees you don’t damage its thin skin.

Lastly, it would help if you prepare a basket to carry all your freshly harvested ghost peppers.

All of these will streamline the entire harvesting process and will make your job easier.

Step 3: Pick the peppers with a bright red color.

Although you can pick green ghost peppers, you can’t expect them to be as hot as the red ones.

So, if you want to enjoy the full experience, only harvest the fruits that are bright red in color.

To start harvesting, gently hold the fruit in one hand and cut the stem with the other hand using your pruning scissors.

Do not pull the pepper from its stem; even if you are wearing nitrile gloves, you might still squeeze the capsaicin oils out and burn your skin if you do this.

Continue looking for ripe ghost peppers and picking them one by one.

Step 4: Continue caring for your ghost pepper plants.

These plants love moist soil, so continue your regular watering schedule after the first harvest.

If you’re fortunate enough to have the ideal growing conditions, you can have several harvests in a single season.

It will also do your ghost pepper plants if you fertilize them during their active growing season.

Should You Wash Ghost Peppers After Harvesting?

Ghost peppers have thin skin, so exposing them to too much moisture will encourage mold growth.

That means it’s not the best idea to wash them if you are not going to eat them yet.

Instead, you can just brush off the dirt from the surface of the skin and store them in a bag.

Once you’re ready to give it a taste, make sure you wash it first.

Doing this is not at all complicated; in fact, it’s just like washing any other type of chili pepper.

You will want to use a colander and a bowl combo, again making sure you wear nitrile gloves every time you handle them.

Rinse each fruit under cold water to maintain its crispness. Then, dry it thoroughly with a cloth or paper towel.

After all this, you can now use your ghost pepper any way you want.

Can You Eat Ghost Peppers Immediately After Harvesting? 

While ghost peppers will continue to ripen off the plant, you can eat them immediately after picking them.

As mentioned, all you need to do is wash them first before pairing them with your favorite protein or mixing them in your special stew.

Because of how hot these peppers are, even just a fraction of a single fruit can spice things up to a whole other level.

Some even choose to eat raw ghost peppers.

How To Store Ghost Peppers

Since consuming too many ghost peppers in one sitting can cause serious side effects, learning how to store them for later use is a must.

For short storage, you can put them in a perforated plastic bag or poke tiny holes into a regular one.

You do this to allow proper ventilation and prevent mold growth. Then, place the bag in your fridge’s crisper drawer or a vegetable section.

Some process ghost pepper fruits into hot sauce.

Others prefer drying ghost peppers and turning them into ghost pepper powder.

These last two storage methods guarantee longer storage; you can even turn it into a small business.

Even if ghost peppers aren’t as easy to grow as other chili peppers, there’s no denying they are worth the effort.

Especially if you love all things spicy, you will love the thrill of trying out this extra hot pepper.

The best part is that you can eat it raw, add it to stews, turn them into a hot sauce, or dry and grind them into powder.

Besides its one-of-a-kind flavor, this pepper variety also has low fat and high amounts of vitamin C, which is good for immunity.

Related Articles:

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How to Grow Ghost Peppers

Cori Sears is a writer with over a decade of experience, specializing in houseplants, gardening, and home decor. She writes about trending news, interior design, houseplants, and gardening for The Spruce. Her expertise in these areas has led her to contribute to other major publications including Better Homes and Gardens and Apartment Therapy.

what do ghost peppers look like when ripe

Mary Marlowe Leverette is one of the industry's most highly-regarded housekeeping and fabric care experts, sharing her knowledge on efficient housekeeping, laundry, and textile conservation. She is also a Master Gardener with over 40+ years of experience and 20+ years of writing experience. Mary is also a member of The Spruce Gardening and Plant Care Review Board.

what do ghost peppers look like when ripe

The Spruce / Gyscha Rendy

Ghost Peppers vs. Habaneros

  • Growing in Pots
  • Propagating
  • Growing From Seeds

Overwintering

  • Pests and Diseases
  • Frequently Asked Questions

Add more than a bit of spice to the pepper plants in your garden with ghost pepper plants ( Bhut jolokia ). Native to India, ghost peppers are a hybrid of the species Capsicum chinense and Capsicum frutescens. They are over 200 times hotter than jalapeños .

The plants have green stems and foliage. The peppers typically come in red, though they also can be orange, yellow, or chocolate. And they stretch roughly 2 to 4 inches long. A healthy ghost pepper plant can produce up to 100 peppers. Ghost pepper plants are perennial in zones 8 to 11 but can be grown as annuals in cooler climates. They are very slow-growing peppers, requiring around 120 days or more to mature, and they should be planted in the spring.

How to Plant Ghost Peppers

When to plant.

Because ghost peppers require such a long growing season, it's best to start seeds indoors around eight to 12 weeks before your area’s last spring frost date. They can be planted outside once the nighttime temperatures are reliably above 60 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Selecting a Planting Site

The planting site should get lots of sun and have well-draining soil. Container growth is also an option. High and consistent temperatures and humidity also are essential for healthy growth. Ghost peppers don't like fluctuations in their environment, which is why many gardeners opt to grow them in controlled greenhouse spaces. 

Spacing, Depth, and Support

Plant seeds around 1/4 inch deep, and situate nursery plants at the same depth they were in their previous container. Space the plants 2 to 3 feet apart. You might need to stake your plants to prevent the stems from breaking when they're heavy with peppers, especially if your plants are exposed to strong winds.

Ghost Pepper Plant Care

During their four- to five-month growing period, the plants require consistently hot, bright, direct sunlight. When growing them indoors, supplementing natural light with grow lights is required. They should receive at least six hours of full sun on most days.

Loamy , well-drained soil with a slightly acidic soil pH is best for ghost pepper plants. Add some organic matter, such as compost, into the soil at the beginning of the growing season, especially if the soil is sandy.

A good rule of thumb is to wait for the top two inches of soil to dry before watering ghost pepper plants. Aim to maintain a regular watering schedule, as inconsistent watering can shock the plants.

Temperature and Humidity

Ghost pepper plants are extremely particular about their temperature and humidity conditions to produce a crop of fruit . They must have a growing season of longer than three months in temperatures above 70 degrees Fahrenheit with high humidity. Four to five months of extreme heat and humidity is ideal. Rapid temperature changes and cold periods can cause ghost pepper plants to drop their flowers or fail to thrive.

Fertilize ghost pepper plants immediately after planting, and then twice more throughout the growing season, using a balanced fertilizer . Although it might be tempting, do not fertilize ghost pepper plants more often than that, as they are very sensitive to overfeeding.

Pollination

Ghost pepper plants are self-pollinators with the help of animals and the wind.

Ghost peppers and habaneros are closely related. However, ghost peppers are slightly larger than habaneros and are significantly hotter. Plus, habaneros have a slightly fruity taste while heat dominates the flavor of ghost peppers . 

Harvesting Ghost Peppers

As ghost peppers ripen, they typically will turn from green to red. Bright red color and slight wrinkling of the skin are signs that they have reached full maturity. Reaching maturity will take between 120 and 150 days on average. They can be harvested at any stage of development if desired, but they are spiciest when fully mature. This is because the compound responsible for the spice in ghost peppers, capsaicin, increases in concentration until the peppers reach full maturity. 

Always wear protective apparel when harvesting ghost peppers, and be careful to avoid touching your eyes or skin after handling the hot chilis. They can cause burning or stinging via skin contact. Cut peppers off the plant with a knife or pruners, leaving around an inch of stem. They can be stored in the refrigerator for about a week in plastic. They also can be dried. 

How to Grow Ghost Peppers in Pots

Growing ghost peppers in pots is a good option in case you need to move the plants indoors to protect them from an unexpected cold snap. Select a pot that’s at least a foot wide and deep per plant to give the roots plenty of room. And make sure the pot has ample drainage holes. Unglazed clay is a good container material to allow excess soil moisture to evaporate through its walls. If the pot has a saucer, promptly empty it if it collects water. You'll likely have to water a container plant more often than plants grown in the ground. But make sure the soil is never waterlogged.

Pinching back the stem tips as ghost pepper plants grow is recommended to encourage bushier growth, but it is not essential.

Propagating Ghost Peppers

Ghost pepper plants can be propagated via stem cuttings , though this is not always successful. Still, it is an inexpensive way to essentially clone a plant that is particularly vigorous or otherwise preferable. The best time to take a cutting is in the late spring to early summer when the plant is actively growing and before it is producing fruit. Here's how:

  • Cut a 4- to 6-inch piece of healthy stem. 
  • Remove the foliage on the lower half of the stem, as well as any flower buds. 
  • Dip the cut end in rooting hormone, and then plant it in moist soilless potting mix. 
  • Keep the cutting in a bright, warm spot, and maintain a moist but not soggy growing medium. Roots should start to form in about three weeks.

How to Grow Ghost Peppers From Seed

Ghost pepper seeds can take three weeks or longer to germinate. Before planting, soak seeds in hydrogen peroxide for a minute to increase germination success. Then, plant them in a moist seed-starting mix that is between 80 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. It's critical to keep the temperature and moisture level consistent. Use full-sun fluorescent grow lights to maintain temperatures when starting seeds indoors.

Potting and Repotting Ghost Peppers

When potting ghost pepper plants, ensuring that the growing medium drains well is of utmost importance. Use a quality organic potting mix. Aim to use a pot that will accommodate the plant's full size right from the start, so you don't have to disturb it by repotting.

Unless you have a climate-controlled greenhouse, it is very difficult to maintain the right amount of heat, humidity, and light for ghost pepper plants over the winter. This is why many gardeners treat the plant as an annual outside of its growing zones.

Common Pests and Plant Diseases

Ghost pepper plants are susceptible to several common pests and diseases when grown both outdoors and indoors. Some of the pests most likely to afflict a ghost pepper plant include aphids , spider mites , slugs, snails, and thrips . Common bacterial and fungal diseases include anthracnose , bacterial leaf spot, powdery mildew , and pepper mosaic. The best way to keep a ghost pepper plant healthy is to conduct regular inspections and catch issues early. Treat problems with organic methods to maintain the edibility of the peppers.

Ghost pepper plants can be tricky to grow. They need consistent levels of high heat and humidity.

Ghost peppers take around four months from planting to maturity on average.

Ghost peppers are perennial in hot, humid climates. But in other areas, they are often treated as an annual.

Ghost pepper production . University of Florida

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HappySpicyHour

When to Pick Ghost Peppers: Your Guide to Getting the Perfect Harvest

  • By Bill Kalkumnerd
  • Updated September 25, 2023
  • In Ghost Pepper

Ghost peppers can go from green to red ripe and ready for picking in about 100-120 days. But when in that process should you start plucking those firey pods?

The short answer: Ghost peppers reach peak heat and flavor when fully ripened to a bright red color. (Typical 100 – 120 days) For the best ghost pepper harvest, you’ll want to wait until the pods turn completely red before picking.

When those little red bombs are glowing vibrantly on the plant, that’s your signal to get picking! But before you start tearing up those hot peppers, let’s look at everything you need to know to get the timing just right.

In this post, I’ll walk you through the growth stages, ripening signs, growing tips, and more to help you get the perfect ghost pepper harvest. Here’s what we’ll cover:

  • Knowing the growth stages from seedling to ripening
  • Reading the signs like color changes that signal peak ripeness
  • Growing tips to maximize heat and flavor
  • How to gently pick ripe peppers off the plant
  • Storing your harvest properly

So get ready to become a master ghost pepper picker! Let’s dive in…

Knowing the Growth Stages

Before you can pick ’em, you’ve gotta grow ’em. Here’s a quick look at the life stages of a ghost pepper plant:

  • Seedling stage:  The first 2 weeks. The baby plant grows roots and leaves.
  • Vegetative stage:  2 weeks to 2 months. The plant focuses on getting big and strong.
  • Flowering stage:  2-4 months after planting. White flowers bloom, signaling fruit is on the way!
  • Fruiting stage:  Flowers become green pepper pods. The pods grow and ripen.
  • Ripening stage:  About 100-120 days after planting, the ghost pepper pods ripen from green to red. This is when they gain heat and flavor!

Reading the Ripening Signs

The best way to know when ghost peppers are ready for picking is to closely watch their color and size:

  • Green and small:  Too soon! An unripe ghost pepper is not going to satisfy your spicy cravings. Be patient, the heat will come.
  • Color break and medium size:  Some red splotches appear on the skin as the pepper grows. Your patience is paying off – a little heat is building.
  • Mostly red and large:  Now we’re talking! The spicy compounds are popping as the pepper swells to full size. But waiting for fully red means even more flavor.
  • Fully red and 1-2 inches long:  Bingo! The ghost pepper has reached its spicy crescendo. The bright red color and full size signals peak ripeness.

The glossy, smooth skin of a ripe ghost pepper looks gorgeous. The pepper should feel rigid, not mushy. The aroma is distinctly fruity.

Now’s the time to gently pluck that red hot beauty off the vine!

How to Know Your Peppers are Ready to Use

Picking ghost peppers at peak ripeness is key, but how do you know when they’re at their best for cooking and sauces? Here are some signs:

  • Color  – Fully red means maximum heat and flavor.
  • Smooth, shiny skin  – Wrinkled or dull skin means a decline in quality.
  • Firmness  – Peppers should feel rigid, not mushy or soft.
  • Aroma  – You’ll smell a strong fruity, floral aroma when ripe.
  • Heat  – Test a tiny nibble on the tip of your tongue. It should pack an intense punch.
  • Taste  – Along with searing heat, you should get some sweet, smoky, and tangy flavors.

Use freshly picked ripe peppers right away for the most vibrant spice and flavor. The heat mellows during storage, so adjust recipes accordingly if using peppers stored for a while.

For the ultimate ghost pepper experience, use them when perfectly ripe and ready to unleash their fiery potential.

Growing Tips for a Hot Harvest

To get the most from your ghost pepper harvest, keep these tips in mind:

  • Plant after the last frost when soil is warm, at least 65°F.
  • Ghost peppers thrive in temps between 70-90°F. Keep them in the hottest, sunniest spot you’ve got.
  • Water when the top few inches of soil become dry. Too much water can dilute the heat.
  • Watch for pests like aphids. Squash any bugs you see by hand or spray organically.
  • Once fruits start growing, back off the nitrogen fertilizer to concentrate flavors.

Follow those guidelines and you’ll be bathing your ghost peppers in optimal spicy growing conditions!

Storing Your Fiery Harvest

Once you’ve picked those perfect ripe ghost peppers, you’ll want to store them properly to keep enjoying their heat. Here are some tips:

  • Refrigerate unwashed peppers  in a paper bag for 2-3 weeks. The cold helps retain capsaicin and moisture.
  • Freeze peppers  whole or diced in airtight bags for 4-6 months. Great for cooking later.
  • Pickle peppers  in jars submerged in vinegar to extend shelf life for months. Adds tasty flavor too!
  • Dry peppers  completely in a food dehydrator or low oven until crispy. Store in airtight containers.
  • Immerse in oil  in an airtight jar to make spicy ghost pepper oil for 2-3 months.

No matter which storage method you choose, keep air exposure low and containers sealed. With proper post-harvest care, you can keep enjoying the ghost pepper heat well after harvest!

What are the varieties of ghost peppers? 

Ghost peppers have wide varieties, including chocolate, yellow, purple, peach, green, white, and orange ghost peppers. Let us learn more about these varieties below. 

Red ghost pepper 

This variety is the most popular. It is considered among the hottest ghost chilies. It has a smokey flavor with a bit of fruity aftertaste. 

Yellow ghost pepper

It was the organic relative of the red ghost pepper. Its taste is similar to the red variety. The pod ripens from green to yellow. 

Green ghost pepper

The green ghost pepper is the immature form of the red ghost pepper. It comes with a grassy taste with floral and fruity notes. The Green version doesn’t have a similar heat level to the red, but potency can be present if you eat them. 

Peach ghost pepper 

The peach ghost pepper is also a natural mutation of the red version. It has longer pendant pods compared to other varieties. The pepper’s average length is about 4 inches, and 6 inches is the largest. The pod begins as green and turns into a pinkish peach color. Leaving them on the vine can potentially turn it orange. This pepper has a balanced, fruity aftertaste. 

Chocolate ghost pepper

It is another organic offspring of the red one. It has a long germination time of about 6 weeks. However, it’s worth it because it can offer you with smoky, delicious flavor. It has a similar heat level to the red ghost pepper and is aromatic. It has a sweet aftertaste. 

Purple ghost pepper

The purple ghost pepper has smaller pods than other varieties. It may become deep purple and turn red if left on the vine. To get the purple color, it should be exposed to direct sunlight. Purple is not as hot as the red one. It is comparable to the heat of the orange habanero . 

Orange ghost pepper

It is the most prolific grower. The orange variety’s heat level is the same as the red ghost pepper. It has a citrus-like flavor making it the best for hot sauce. 

White ghost pepper

It is a rare variety and natural variant of the red ghost pepper. It is a heavy producer of pods with high heat and a slight citrus flavor.        

Note: Black discoloration inside ghost peppers is not natural. It’s usually caused by pests, disease, or cultivation issues. Healthy ghost peppers maintain their vibrant red shade inside and out.

Ready, Set, Pick!

Now that you know what to look for, it’s time to start plucking those perfect red ghost peppers. I recommend using gloves – the oils can irritate bare hands. Gently twist the pepper off the vine for a clean break.

Collect your peppers in a single layer in a paper bag. Refrigerate for up to 3 weeks, or get creative in the kitchen! Salsa, hot sauce, chili, wings – the possibilities are deliciously endless.

The heat is on my friend. Happy ghost pepper picking!

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Bill Kalkumnerd

Bill Kalkumnerd

I am Bill, I am the Owner of HappySpicyHour, a website devoted to spicy food lovers like me. Ramen and Som-tum (Papaya Salad) are two of my favorite spicy dishes. Spicy food is more than a passion for me - it's my life! For more information about this site Click

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Tips Bulletin

Useful Tips To Make Your Everyday Life Just A Bit Better

When to Pick Ghost Peppers

Last Updated: September 8, 2023 by Joan Clark

There are thousands of different types of hot peppers, but few compare to the spice level of the ghost pepper. In this article, find out when to pick ghost peppers, along with a few fabulous ways to use them in the kitchen.

Ghost pepper plants have a relatively long growing season. They take 100-150 days from the time you plant seeds to reach full maturity. Most growers get a head start by planting ghost pepper seeds indoors in early spring.

If it’s your first time growing them, you might be wondering, “When are ghost peppers ripe?” The most obvious sign to look for when harvesting ghost peppers is their color change.

When immature, ghost peppers are green. As they ripen, they turn from pale yellow to orange, then darken to a brilliant red. When they’re completely mature, their skin begins to wrinkle slightly.

Some like it hot, but then there’s ghost pepper hot. Read on to discover all the essential tips and tricks for growing and harvesting ghost peppers.

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When are Ghost Peppers Ripe?

Have you ever asked, “How long does it take to grow ghost peppers?” While their exact harvest time depends on growing conditions, expect your crop of ghost peppers to be ready for picking in about three or four months.

As chile peppers ripen, the flavor changes along with the fruit’s chemical composition. The sugar content increases the longer they stay on the vine, as does their capsaicin level.

Capsaicin is the naturally occurring chemical component in peppers that gives them their spiciness. Green peppers have a slightly bitter taste and a milder spice level.

Ripe peppers are sweeter but also considerably hotter. How hot they get depends on how long they remain on the plant.

Hot peppers are ranked on the Scoville scale for heat level based on capsaicin content. For reference, a jalapeno pepper measures 2,500-8,000 Scoville Heat Units (SHU). How spicy are serrano peppers ? Serranos measure from 5,000-15,000 SHU and tabasco and cayenne peppers measure 30,000-50,000 SHU.

A habanero pepper measures 100,000-350,000 SHU. Bell peppers do not contain any capsaicin and have a Scoville rating of 0.

In 2007, the ghost chili was deemed the world’s hottest pepper at 855,000 to over one million SHU. However, it was dethroned in 2011 by the Trinidad Scorpion.

In 2013, the Guinness Book of World Records declared the super hot Carolina Reaper the hottest pepper in the world at more than two million SHU.

Ghost chili peppers are native to India and are called Bhut Jolokia or Naga Jolokia. They’re a naturally occurring hybrid between two species of peppers: Capsicum chinense and Capsicum frutescens.

Ghost peppers have a long history of cultivation and use in India, both for culinary and medicinal purposes.

Tips and Tricks for Harvesting Ghost Peppers

After attentively caring for your ghost pepper plants all season, whether you grow ghost peppers indoors or outside, you may wonder, “When are ghost peppers ready to pick?” When are chili peppers ready to pick depends on how hot you like them and how you want to use them in the kitchen.

For the maximum spice level, allow the peppers to reach full maturity before picking them. The same holds true for when to harvest a tabasco pepper . Dried peppers are even hotter than fresh ones. Allow ghost peppers to dry on the plant or spread them out in a warm, well-ventilated area to dry after harvesting.

Once you reach the end of the summer growing season, harvest all of your peppers before the nighttime temperatures drop below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, regardless of their ripeness. Even a light frost damages the plant tissues and ruins your crop.

To avoid damaging the plant, use a pair of sterile, sharp pruners for harvesting instead of pulling the peppers off the branches. Encourage more vigorous fruit production by picking peppers regularly as soon as they’re ripe enough.

Since it’s one of the hottest pepper varieties, it’s crucial to take a few precautions when harvesting ghost peppers. Their extremely high capsaicin level may affect your skin as well as your taste buds.

Wear gloves when picking ghost peppers to protect yourself from possible skin irritation, especially if you have sensitive skin. Many people protect their eyes, hands, mouth, and nose with safety gear while processing ghost peppers for cooking.

Avoid touching sensitive areas like your eyes and nose until you thoroughly wash your hands. Rinsing with vinegar helps to neutralize capsaicin burns both on the skin and in the mouth.

The most common use for ghost peppers is making hot sauce. Try this fantastic recipe for cherry bourbon hot sauce with ghost peppers if you’d like to add a little sweetness to the spice.

Cherry Bourbon Ghost Pepper Hot Sauce

  • 2 cups Kentucky bourbon
  • 8 ounces of Maraschino cherries
  • 4 fresh, ripe ghost peppers
  • ¼ teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup cane syrup
  • 2 cups of brown sugar

Remove the Maraschino cherries from their juice. Take off the cherries’ stems and set the juice aside for later.

Remove the stems and seeds from your ghost peppers and cut them into quarters. Combine the Kentucky bourbon, ghost peppers, cherries, and vanilla in a resealable container and allow them to marinate in your refrigerator for at least one week.

Pour the mixture into a blender or food processor and purée until smooth. Pour it into a saucepan and incorporate the cane syrup and cherry juice. Stir in the brown sugar, and simmer over low-medium heat for around one hour, stirring occasionally.

Allow your hot sauce to cool for 20-30 minutes before serving. Store any leftovers refrigerated in an airtight container for up to three months.

Knowing When to Pick Ghost Peppers

It’s critical to identify when to harvest ghost peppers. Other than their noticeable color change, there are several different indications of ripeness to look for.

Unripe ghost peppers are a glossy, bright green color and have a firm texture. Although the pepper pods themselves are irregularly shaped, their skin is relatively smooth.

As they mature, the color transitions through yellow and orange before finally ripening to bright red. Although they’re edible at any stage, red peppers have the fullest, boldest flavor.

When they reach full maturity, the peppers begin to soften a bit, and the skin starts to shrivel slightly. If desired, leave a few peppers on the plant to dry out.

Alternatively, spread them on a drying rack or hang them in a warm, dry location for three or four weeks. Dried ghost peppers are up to ten times hotter than fresh ones.

Bring a richly smokey flavor to your next batch of hot sauce with this mouthwatering recipe for smoked ghost pepper hot sauce.

Smoked Ghost Pepper Hot Sauce

  • 4 cups of organic apple cider vinegar
  • 1 head garlic, roasted
  • 5 ghost peppers, dried
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup of salt

Start by smoking your dried ghost peppers on a smoker for 15-20 minutes. Check them every few minutes to ensure they don’t get too charred. The skins should be lightly blackened in places but still primarily red.

Once the ghost peppers are cool enough to handle, remove the stems and as many seeds as possible. Be sure to wear gloves during the de-seeding process.

Add all of the ingredients to a blender or food processor and purée until smooth. Pour the mixture into a pot or saucepan and simmer on low-medium heat until the total volume reduces by approximately 20%.

If desired, strain it through a sieve to remove any small pieces that didn’t get thoroughly blended. Allow the hot sauce to cool for 20-30 minutes before serving. Store leftovers in an airtight container in your refrigerator for up to 90 days.

Caring for Ghost Pepper Plants

Ghost pepper plants have a reputation for being difficult to grow because they require long periods of heat and humidity. The ideal temperature range to grow-ghost-peppers is between 70-90 degrees Fahrenheit.

To ensure the best germination rate for your ghost pepper seeds, keep the soil moist and maintain the soil temperature between 80-90 degrees Fahrenheit.

It’s often challenging to mimic their native growing conditions in North American climates. For optimal results, plant ghost peppers in a greenhouse where it’s easier to maintain warm, humid air throughout the growing season.

Pepper plants grow best in full sun, where they receive eight or more hours of direct sunlight each day. The plants may drop their flowers and fruit in response to cold or drought stress. Use mulch to insulate the soil, retain moisture, and minimize weed growth.

Since they’re not exactly a commonplace garden veggie, you might be wondering, “When are ghost peppers ripe?” This super hot chili pepper variety has a long growing season.

Depending on seasonal conditions, it takes 100-150 days for ghost peppers to reach full maturity. Although it’s perfectly fine to harvest green or red peppers, the fully ripe ones pack the biggest punch on the Scoville scale.

Find out all about harvesting ghost peppers. Pro tip - wear gloves. Measuring over one million Scoville heat units, they’re one of the world’s hottest pepper varieties. Native to India, this chili pepper has a long growing season and ripen to bright red. #harvest #ghost #peppers

If you enjoyed learning about harvesting ghost peppers, please share this article about when to pick ghost peppers with your friends and family on Facebook and Pinterest.

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IMAGES

  1. How to Tell When a Ghost Pepper is Ripe?

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  2. Ghost Pepper Guide: Heat, Flavor, Uses

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  3. Ghost Peppers 101: Your Complete Guide

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  4. Ghost Chili Peppers Ripe Hanging Stock Photo

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  5. Specialty peppers Ghost Chili ripe to harvest Photograph by Stephan Pietzko

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  6. First year growing ghost peppers and they are starting to ripen. What

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  4. When To Pick Ghost Peppers (With Pictures)

    From planting to harvesting ripe ghost peppers can take anywhere from 130-150 days (4.5+ months) or longer!

  5. When & How to Harvest & Eat a Ghost Pepper

    The bhut jolokia, or "Ghost Pepper", has previously held the title of the world's hottest pepper, and it can be difficult to grow them

  6. When to Harvest Your Ghost Peppers

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  7. When To Pick Ghost Peppers And What To Do With Them

    1. What should the skin of a Ghost pepper look like? Most ripe Ghost peppers have smooth skin with a wrinkle on the side, however overripe

  8. What Color are Ghost Peppers When Ripe

    Ghost peppers become a bright, rich red color when fully ripe. The peppers start out green over their first few weeks on the plant. After

  9. How to Tell When a Ghost Pepper is Ripe?

    The skin will be wrinkled with no hint of green visible on the pod. The fruit should be 2-3 inches (5-8 cms) long, which normally happens

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    Ripe ghost peppers can be anywhere from two to three inches long and about an inch wide. If you like green ghost peppers, harvest them when they are about a

  11. How to Grow Ghost Peppers

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  12. When to Pick Ghost Peppers: Your Guide to Getting the Perfect

    Ripening stage: About 100-120 days after planting, the ghost pepper pods ripen from green to red. This is when they gain heat and flavor!

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