They say variety is the spice of life, and that’s true in survival gardening if you decide to mix in some habanero chili peppers with the rest of your produce! If your goal is to live independently, you might like making your own hot sauce, salsa, or jam, and growing habanero peppers is great for controlling the quality. Plus, a whole bush of them adds a jovial pop of color to your garden!
However, you must know how and when to harvest habanero peppers. Otherwise, the peppers will become overripe, leading to rot and flavor loss. We’ll walk you through the harvesting process!
History of Habanero Peppers
Believed to have appeared first in the Amazon, habanero peppers became a common trading item between Cuba and other countries, particularly the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico. Because of this, the peppers became known as “habanero,” which roughly translates to “from Havana,” Cuba’s most prominent city.
After conquering Mexico, the Spanish spread habanero peppers to its trading partners worldwide. They quickly proved popular everywhere. However, the Yucatán Peninsula still eats them the most and boasts specialized knowledge in how to grow and when to harvest habanero peppers.
The habanero was also believed to be the world’s hottest pepper until even hotter ones were discovered or artificially bred in the last 20 years. Nevertheless, anyone with a penchant for spiciness respects the habanero!
Health Benefits of Habanero Peppers
Though habanero peppers come in several colors, including red, yellow, orange, white, purple, and brown, they all have the same health benefits in common. In other words, harvesting habanero peppers could boost your strength and vitality. Learning the details might help you feel better while your tongue is burning!
The high capsaicin content is what makes habanero peppers so spicy. However, it’s also what gives them the ability to reduce bad cholesterol levels. This means less plaque buildup in your blood, so your heart and other organs will be healthier.
Supports Healthy Weight
Capsaicin doesn’t just feel hot on your tongue; the rest of your body feels it, too. By boosting a process called thermogenesis, which refers to the heat that your body generates when digesting and absorbing nutrients, it increases your metabolism so that you lose or maintain weight more easily.
Evidence suggests that capsaicin supports insulin products, lowering your blood pressure and blood glucose levels. By harvesting habanero peppers and including them in your meals, you’re less likely to suffer from maladies that are caused by unhealthy blood, such as diabetes, heart disease, or a stroke.
Cancer is another disease that you could prevent by harvesting habanero peppers, thanks to their richness in vitamins A, C, and E. These vitamins are prized as antioxidants, which is proven to reduce the occurrence of free radical cells.
Improves Immune System
Avoiding disease is all well and good, but what about everyday illnesses? Fortunately, vitamin C plays a critical role in strengthening your immune system as well, and you’ll find plenty of it in habanero peppers.
How and When to Harvest Habanero Peppers
Let’s say you’ve planted and nurtured your habanero peppers for several months. As they grow bigger and brighter, you may wonder when to harvest habanero peppers to ensure the best possible quality. Fortunately, it’s a simple process if you know what you’re doing. We’ll help you learn!
Step 1: Determine the Right Timing
As long as you planted your habanero seeds two to four weeks before the first frost of the year, they’ll be ready to harvest three to five months later. If you’re relying on your senses rather than a calendar, you’ll know when to harvest habanero peppers once they measure one to two and a half inches and look the right color for the variety you chose. They’ll get mushy and discolored if you wait too long.
Want a milder flavor? Harvest habanero peppers while they’re green. They’re unripe but still edible at that stage. Still, they may continue to ripen for the next three to four days after leaving the bush, so don’t be surprised if they change color.
Step 2: Protect Yourself
Habanero peppers are so hot that even touching them could leave oil containing capsaicin residue on your hands. If you touch your face or eyes afterward, they may feel like they’re burning. People who wear contact lenses may have to throw their current pair away after touching them; cleaning the oil from the lenses is a nearly impossible task.
Knowing all this, after you’ve figured out when to harvest habanero peppers, put on gloves before handling them. Gardening gloves may be too thick for such a delicate task, so consider vinyl, latex, or nitrile instead.
Step 3: Remove the Peppers Carefully
Using a knife, scissors, or gardening clippers, cut the habanero peppers gently from the bush by their stems. They should come off easily if they’re ripe; leave them to grow a little longer if they resist. However, finish harvesting habanero peppers before the nighttime temperatures drop to 35°F. That’s when they will all shrivel and die.
After picking the peppers, place them in a harvesting basket, bucket, or wheelbarrow. They’ll be easy to carry home that way.
Step 4: Store the Peppers
When you’re done harvesting habanero peppers, transfer them to a plastic bag or container at home. They’ll only stay good at room temperature for three to five days. If you leave them in your fridge, they’ll last for about two weeks; in the freezer, they’re usable for up to a year. Put them in your food right away after slicing or cooking, as they’ll only keep for a few hours at that point.
Alternatively, dehydrate the peppers by arranging them on a cookie sheet and heating them in the oven at 200°F for 10 to 12 hours. After that, grind them up in a bowl or mortar with a pestle.
Barring that, put the peppers into a plastic bag and then use a hammer or your fist to pound them gently. However, wear gloves for that, too; the peppers’ oil can seep through the plastic.
Whatever method you use, move the crushed pepper pieces into a jar or shaker or mix them with other herbs and spices. That way, you can sprinkle them on your food whenever you want. We’ve also put together an article about How Long Dehydrated Food Lasts that will teach you how to make it last as long as possible.
Step 5: Save the Seeds
Want to plant and harvest habanero peppers again next year? Slice the peppers in half before doing anything else with them. From there, scoop the seeds out with a spoon or knife and slide them into a plastic bag. If you have multiple kinds of habanero peppers, label each bag with the color that the seeds are expected to grow.
The seeds will need to stay in a dark, cool, and dry area until you’re ready to plant them in the next growing season.
Recipes with Habanero Peppers
Now you know how to when to harvest habanero peppers, and even the best storage methods. What next? How can you use them in your meals? Luckily, we’re ready to inspire you with a few ideas!
Habanero Pepper Jam
Sometimes, you might crave a little spicy sweetness on your sandwich, meat entree, or smoothie. Habanero pepper jam fills that role perfectly. Just gather some sugar, vinegar, salt, lemon juice, and liquid fruit pectin, then boil and mix them in a pan with crushed or sliced peppers. After letting the jelly cool overnight, you’re ready to spread it over anything you want!
There’s nothing like a hot chili to warm you up on a cool day or comfort you when you’re sick, and this habanero chili certainly delivers. As with all chilis, the ingredients are subject to differences in taste, but beef, carrots, celery, garlic, onions, oregano, paprika, and olive oil are recommended. Also, to mute the spiciness, add less habanero than the recipe suggests.
Garlic Habanero Hot Sauce
Can you imagine being able to add a spicy yet pungently savory kick to anything you eat? It’s worth harvesting habanero peppers just to make garlic habanero hot sauce. To make it, combine garlic cloves with crushed habaneros, onions, vinegar, lime juice, Worcestershire sauce, salt, cumin, and water.
Considering how Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula is known for growing and harvesting habanero peppers, it should come as no surprise that they’re a beloved ingredient of shrimp tacos. Together with a mango salsa, slaw, sriracha mayonnaise, pickled onions, avocados, and vinegar, these tacos are guaranteed to become a favorite for lunch or dinner.
Wrapping Up Everything You Need to Know About When to Harvest Habanero Peppers
Once you know how and when to harvest habanero peppers, you’re one step closer to becoming independent and self-sufficient. However, we’re happy to offer plenty more tips on self-sufficiency and survival. With our advice, you’ll be ready to use habanero peppers and a variety of other foods and tools to care for yourself and your loved ones in an emergency, or so that you can simply prefer a self-sustaining lifestyle.