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We just had an early September snow (two nights below freezing) here in Colorado. I did get some cover over my beds to keep the snow off the plants, but it was much to big to really work as a greenhouse so it still got cold in there. My bell peppers and even the habaneros seem to be alright, but the ghost peppers are not. I've just got one plant, and it seems like all the shoots which have fruit on them have dropped all their leaves, though there are still leaves on the 1 or 2 stems that had no fruit. My basic question is, should I cut my losses and harvest now and they just won't be as spicy, or is it alright to leave them out and see what happens (the fruit are all still green and I would have guessed they needed another month to fully ripen)? The forecast doesn't show any cold temperatures anytime soon and we get lots of sun, but I guess I'm just worried they might rot on the vine if the plant is dying.

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Sad to say, you probably are stuck with the consequences of Colorado's very early and very cold first frost this year, and the ghost peppers are done. By now, several weeks later, it's evident, and you can correct me if I'm wrong. If the leaves are dead the fruit won't ripen, so harvest what you can use in its present condition and compost the rest.

Sometimes a light frost will kill only the outer leaves of a plant that is sufficiently big and bushy to have retained some warm air toward its center. In that case the inner part of the plant can continue to limp along and mature some fruit until the harder frost arrives. Mostly I've seen that on tomatoes and less so on smaller eggplants or peppers, however.

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  • I ended up leaving them to see what would happen, and just picked about half the peppers today. It's definitely not a happy plant, though since it's been fairly warm and sunny since that frost I think it kept them from getting worse and few leaves have started growing back. Other than one rotten fruit, the rest is basically all orange now (was green during the frost). I don't think it will go full red since a couple of them are developing some sort of sores, but I'll see how much they ripen off the vine and see how hot they get. Building a greenhouse for next year! – Benjamin Brannon Oct 7 at 18:59
  • I am pleased to stand corrected about the fruits ripening. I'm not sure the extent to which it was simply time and they would have ripened on the kitchen counter versus inputs from the plants, but if the plants were trying to grow more leaves, they definitely weren't dead just yet. Good luck with the greenhouse, and plan for it to withstand hail! – InColorado Oct 8 at 19:43

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