Make sure the bell peppers are firm and shiny with a crisp texture. Use garden shears to clip the fruits from the plant instead of pulling them off.
Pick bell peppers when they are smaller in the beginning of summer. They may be taken when they are the size of a golf ball and frequent picking will encourage near-continuous fruit production. Immature bell peppers are soft and pliable with thin pale walls.
Take fully mature bell peppers when they are four to five inches long and have full, well-formed lobes. The older the fruit is, the thicker the skin will be.
Allow the bell peppers to ripen to their final color later in the season to get fruit of different colors. Ripe bell peppers may be yellow, red, orange or purple, depending on the variety. You can continue to harvest bell peppers until the first frost.
Store bell peppers at 50 degrees and at least 90 percent humidity, if possible. They should be stored away from other fruits and vegetables because they are sensitive to ethylene gas, which causes them to age faster.
HOW TO DRY PEPPERS
The shelf life of your chili peppers can be extended many times over by drying your peppers and storing them in an airtight container. To expedite the process, a home food dehydrator can be used to safely take the moisture out of your peppers. Otherwise, place your fresh peppers onto a cookie sheet and 'baking' at the lowest setting (approximately 150F or lower)with the oven for several hours to gradually dry out the peppers. Turn peppers frequently, and make sure peppers are not being overheated.
If neither a food dehydrator or oven is available, peppers can be dried naturally in the sun or even in a well-lit window. This process may take several days, even with hot dry conditions. Peppers can be placed on a flat surface in a sunny location. Turn periodically to ensure that they dry out evenly. Once peppers are slightly brittle and tough, they can be stored in airtight containers and saved for future use.
Cut your favorite variety of pepper in half. All of the seeds inside are most likely viable and you can use them to grow the same variety of pepper in containers or in a sunny garden spot. Collect the seeds and lay them flat on a paper towel for 24 hours.
Label the plastic bag with the permanent marker with the name or variety of the pepper seeds. Place the seeds inside for planting.
Keep the seeds in a cool, but not cold, dark area until you are ready to start them in early spring.