We are now at the point in the season where many Chilli growers harvest their crops. Many of our Chillies have now ripened. However, if you are like me, there is still a while to go until the end of the season. With this in mind, I want to harvest what I can without damaging my plants. Particularly those I want to overwinter. This is where the method used to pick the Chillies becomes important. I cover this topic in this post
The best way to harvest Chillies is by snapping the Chillies off at the base of their calyxes with your fingers. Simply hold the base of the calyx between your thumb and index fingers, and pull the Chilli away from it using the same fingers on the other hand.
Snipping Chillies off at the stem using scissors instead of snapping them off can pose a risk to the plant. By snipping the Chilli plant on its stem with scissors, you create an “open wound” on it. There is then a possibility the stem will rot, and this may introduce disease into the plant. This is the last thing you want to happen. To keep plants over winter, they will need to be as robust as possible when beginning the overwintering process. It is the only way the plants will survive and thrive in the next season
For immediate use
The method above is best if you want to use the Chillies immediately. It is however not good if you want to freeze your Chillies whole. For this, it is best to keep the stem on the Chilli
To preserve Chillies where the stem has been removed, finely chop the Chillies and place them in an ice tray topped with a little water. In this way, when you need Chillies in your cooking, simply remove a cube from the tray and pop it (while still frozen) into the dish you are cooking. It will melt and infuse the dish with the flavour of the Chilli
A method of harvesting Chillies with their stems still in place is well described in this video. With this method, Chillies are snapped off with their stems intact at the node. Snapping Chillies off in this way is an excellent way to pick Chillies if you want to freeze them whole. However, it still represents a risk to the plant. Disease can still pose a danger. The risk is, however, far less than using a pair of scissors or a knife.
With all these harvested Chilies, the question “What to do with them” needs to be asked. There are after all only so many that can be frozen or dried. The rest will need to be pickled, made into jams, hot sauces or relishes. Another good use for the Chillilies is to make Chilli oils. In our section on hot sauces and other products, we have many suggestions for using your harvested Chillies.