WHAT TO DO WITH CAPSICUMS

The first fruits are harvested 8 to 16 weeks (or sooner) after planting the young plants; depending upon where they are grown and the cultural techniques used. Greenhouse grown plants may produce even earlier. Home grown crops may be picked when plants only carry an occasional fruit; but commercial crops may be left until there are sufficient numbers of fruits present to make picking viable.  

Successive flushes of fruit continue being produced at around monthly intervals as long as temperature and other growing conditions remain favourable.

Bell capsicums are either harvested when fruits are still green; or just beginning to turn red.
Red fruit often bring a higher price; but take longer to produce.

Pick fruits by snapping off the stem, being careful to not detach too close to the fruit. If too little, or no stem is left on a fruit, it will deteriorate faster after harvest. Fruit that is harvested in heavy rain periods can rot faster. Water can even be contained inside the fruit cavity, further increasing the rate of rotting.

After harvesting, fruits should be gently cooled to between 5° and 10°C to optimise quality and shelf life. The best way of cooling large quantities commercially is with forced air fans in a room at between 5° and 10°C.
If necessary, fruits may be stored in a cool room at 7-10 °C for up to 3 weeks.

Yield depend on density of planting and length of growing season for example: hybrid bell capsicums grown under plastic mulch and with trickle irrigation, in Queensland, Australia are reported to produce up to 8,000 X 18 litre cartons (half boxes) in a season. Under such a system, the fruits might be picked up to 25 times throughout a season.

Note: capsicums cannot be ripened artificially using ethylene treatment!
 

Handling Peppers

If you plan to eat peppers fresh (eg Sweet peppers in a salad), they are best harvested and used as soon as possible. If the skin is crisp and shiny it will be crisp to bite, and have the best taste. Once the skin begins to wrinkle, it is becoming dehydrated. The flavour will linger and even intensify as a fruit dries out, but the crispness disappears. This process of deterioration can be slowed by storing cold.

  • A bell pepper should keep for at least a week in the refrigerator. Once cut it may deteriorate a little faster.
  • Green bell peppers can sometimes be turned red by wrapping it in tissue paper and storing in a cool place for a couple of days.
  • The skin on a capsicum is usually more bitter than the flesh below. Skin is sometimes removed in order to enhance the culinary experience
  • Ground, dried chilli powders such as cayenne or paprika, will taste better when fresh. If they are going to be stored, keep them in an air tight container and store in a pure form. Once you mix chilli powder with other things such as herbs, the potential for flavour to deteriorate may increase.
  • Whenever you handle peppers, particularly the hot ones; be very careful to never touch your eyes, nose or mouth until your hands have been thoroughly washed. It is a good idea to wear rubber gloves if handling a lot of chilli.
  • For less hot chilli dishes, remove and discard all seeds from the chillis before cooking. If you want an extra hot chilli sauce, you can use the seeds, but be sure they are pulverised completely and mixed thoroughly with the rest of the chilli. This may be done with a mortar and pestil.