If you’ve ever contemplated growing chili peppers other than jalapenos, you’ve probably seen serrano peppers. The Jalapeno vs. Serrano popularity stakes favor Jalapenos, yet serranos are getting popular.
The serrano pepper, Capsicum annuum, is a fiery chilli from Puebla and Hidalgo in Mexico. It resembles a jalapeno but is smaller and a bit spicier.
These green peppers ripen to red, orange, brown, or yellow and are used in many areas of Mexican cuisines, such as tacos, hot sauce, stews, and pico de gallo. The Scoville scale measures the heat of chili peppers, with higher numbers being spicier; these pepper varieties come with a Scoville heat level of 10,000 to 25,000. (SHU) whereas, Jalapenos range from 2500 to 10,000 SHU.
In our guide, you can learn more about how to grow serrano peppers, how to care for your serrano pepper plant, and when to tell your peppers are fully ripe.
By the end, you’ll have enough information for when harvesting serrano peppers needs to be, so you can pick your serrano peppers to use in your authentic Mexican dishes.
How Big Should Serrano Peppers Be Before Picking?
Like other spicy peppers, Serrano peppers have no set harvest date, no matter which Serrano Pepper Planting Guide you read. (Read our Indoor Pepper Growing Guide)
Like jalapenos with other peppers, the optimal time to harvest depends on size, color, and flavor for when to harvest serrano peppers. You can have green ones, red serranos, and they can have the same flavor, but the heat changes.
Harvesting Serrano Peppers on Size
Serrano peppers are long, thin peppers. The plants typically grow two to three inches in length and a half-inch wide. The Chile Pepper Institute in New Mexico developed a new serrano strain called the NuMex Cajohns Serrano that is larger and less spicy.
Although you can pick them anytime, it’s common to harvest peppers that are three to four inches long. Smaller peppers are significantly hotter since they have a higher concentration of capsaicin, the chemical compound, which gives hot peppers their spice.
Harvest Serrano Peppers By Maturity Date
Several seed packets mention the number of days to maturity for many species of chili pepper, including serrano peppers. You can choose the size and color of your chili pepper, yet this number is often how long you can expect to wait.
Many serrano peppers mature around 70-90 days after planting your serrano pepper seeds. Green peppers can be available 60 days after seeding.
When to Pick Serrano Peppers For Large Harvest
Serrano pepper plants generate more blossoms and fruits if harvested early while still deeper green. Picking many peppers also helps. In optimum conditions, you can find 50 pepper pods per plant.
Apply a phosphate, calcium, and potassium-rich fertilizer to maximize your chile pepper harvest. Ensure you don’t use a fertilizer containing too much nitrogen as it will slow fruit production.
Pick a Serrano Pepper with Brown Lines
Hot peppers like serrano peppers can develop microscopic brown growth lines and a cracked appearance because of corking.
It appears when the peppers’ inner grows faster than the thin skin, although you can often find some grow with a thicker skin on the outside. Your peppers may grow too quickly if given too much water, sunlight, or nutrients. Despite their unattractive appearance, corked peppers show that the fruits have reached maturity. (Learn What to Do About Leaf Curl On Pepper Plants)
Do Serrano Peppers Get Hotter When They Turn Red?
Serrano peppers are long and thin as a lesser counterpart of the jalapeno pepper (Capsicum annuum). Yellow, orange, red, or green Serrano chiles are available in various colors, and they change color as they ripen. Serrano pepper plants can reach five feet in height and yield as many as 50 peppers per plant.
Most serranos come from Mexico’s hilly regions of Puebla and Hidalgo, where they were first cultivated. Jalapenos have a bright, fresh kick with a medium to medium-hot spiciness that varies based on size. Serranos can be added to many recipes with their distinct flavor, although they are most commonly used in salsa, pico de gallo, and guac.
Scoville Heat Units (SHU) are a unit of measurement for determining how hot or spicy a chile pepper is.
Serrano peppers range from 10,000 to 20,000 SHU on the Scoville scale. Although the Carolina Reaper pepper is the hottest on the planet at 1,400,000 SHU, the serrano pepper is still very spicy.
Depending on the size of the pepper, serranos can range from mild to extremely spicy. Serrano peppers that are green and unripe are milder in flavor than ripe red peppers, and orange peppers fall somewhere in between.
You can often find bell peppers don’t change in heat, so red peppers, green peppers only vary in sweetness as chili pepper plant produce matures.
For comparison, here are the Scoville ratings for other varieties, from mild to hot peppers:
- Bell pepper: 0 SHU
- Poblano pepper: 1,000-1,500 SHU
- Jalapeño pepper: 4,000 – 10,000 SHU
- Serrano pepper: 10,000 – 20,000 SHU
- Cayenne pepper: 30,000 – 50,000 SHU
- Habanero: 100,000 – 300,000 SHU
- Ghost pepper: 1,000,000 SHU
- Trinidad Moruga Scorpion: 1,200,000 SHU
- Carolina Reaper: 1,400,000 SHU
The heat level in serrano pepper varieties will differ according to the pepper’s varieties, color, and size. Peppers with vivid red color and smaller sizes are hotter. If you simmer the chiles in a meal like soup or stew, the flavor softens.
Because you can harvest any time, you can adapt recipes to use the hot flavor of the bright red ones, or you can use milder ones in fresh salsas.
The optimum time to grow Serrano peppers is when the weather is warm. This is because these peppers prefer to grow in warm weather. For planting Serrano peppers, you must prepare ahead. Pick the right months when the temperatures are at their highest.
Do Serrano Peppers Ripen After Picking?
When you look at serrano peppers vs. jalapeno peppers, the heat level averages about 5,000 SHU on average; in comparison, a serrano can be around five times hotter than your jalapeno pepper or more.
You may have plucked the pepper from your serrano plant and its tender stems too early for ripe peppers, yet you can still save a Serrano pepper if you pluck it before fully ripe.
All you need to do is, like with most peppers, and that is place them in direct sunlight. Your green pepper will turn from green to a mix of green and red and then ripen to a bright red if you are lucky.
How do you cut Serrano peppers from the plant?
There’s a reason serrano peppers are so popular in Mexico: they’re delicious. Hot summers and mild winters are ideal for these peppers. Growing circumstances, such as sun exposure, influence the ripening speed and heat level of the fruits and can help you choose when to harvest hot banana peppers, serranos, and jalapenos.
Serrano peppers should be grown and harvested as much as possible during the summer months, just like other hot peppers. Serrano peppers grow best in full sun and have a low frost tolerance. Start the seeds indoors and transplant the seedlings at about three weeks following the last frost.
Daytime temperatures should be above 75°F, and nighttime temperatures should be above 55°F. However, you do not want temps to increase substantially above 75°F, as this will diminish the yield.
Cover your plants overnight if frost is a possibility. All peppers should be picked before temperatures drop below freezing or the delicate fruits may perish.
You need to know how to pick serrano peppers and other varieties of chili plants now that you know when to pick them. Pull the peppers off the plant by hand to safeguard them. Instead, use a knife, garden clippers, scissors, or pruning shears to cut them off.
To avoid disease transmission when growing serrano peppers, harvest the plant when it is dry. Consider using rubber gloves while harvesting, or at the very least, washing your hands well afterward. Serrano pepper oil shouldn’t be applied near the cheeks or eyes since it might induce a burning sensation.
Keep dry, unwashed serrano peppers in the crisper for up to two weeks in a resealable plastic bag. Just before using the peppers, rinse them and remove the stems.
Home cooks remove pepper seeds and pith because they contain the most capsaicin, making them the spiciest component of the chili.
While harvesting Serrano peppers. The first things to remember is to pick them off when they’re dry. Because water spreads diseases more quickly, this is a simple and effective technique to prevent disease and pests. (Read Do Rabbits Eat Pepper Plants)
Don’t tug or yank the peppers if you can’t readily extract them by hand. Instead, gently snip them off with clippers or a knife.
When you pick your Serrano peppers by hand, you shouldn’t touch your eyes or face. The oil on the exterior can be spicy, and it will irritate and hurt your eyes if you get it in your eyes.
The plants can grow from seeds up to 5 feet tall, yet they are often smaller. You find that they may lack size, yet they are better tasting and accessible than any you get from the grocery store.