The Basics Of The Jalapeno Pepper
The jalapeno pepper is one of the most recognized of all the peppers in the world. They’re spicy, but generally not overpoweringly spicy. They are grown in massive quantities and delivered all over the world to be enjoyed in many different meals.
The Jalapeno Profile
- SHU (Scoville Heat Units): Between 2500 and 8000
- Length: Between 2 and 5 inches
- Diameter: Between 0.8 and 1.5 inches
- Color: Green but red when it’s ripe
Where’s The Jalapeno From?
Jalapeno gets its name from its origin home, the Mexican city of Jalapa – Capital of Veracruz. The peppers have been used for thousands of years in South America and when cultivated, they were often smoked to be stored for a lengthy period of time.
The result of this process bore the jalapeno pepper called the chipotle pepper.
Mexico continues to grow the most amount of jalapeno peppers, in fact they have around 70,000 acres of land set to grow them. The border areas of Mexico also grow a load of jalapenos, like New Mexico and Texas, due to the perfect climatic conditions for their cultivation.
Other Types And Names For Jalapeno Peppers
There are a few different types/names of jalapeno peppers, and these include:
- Huachinango (which is a type of red jalapeno)
- Chile Gordo (which is a fat jalapeno pepper)
Then, we have the hybrid jalapeno peppers. These include:
The Lemon Spice Jalapeno
This jalapeno was created by New Mexico State University and looks yellow but still holds the same heat as your typical jalapeno pepper.
This pepper is basically the jalapeno pepper but without any of the heat. However, it still has the great taste of a jalapeno pepper, beautifully sweet and tangy!
The Orange Spice Jalapeno
This type of jalapeno pepper is a little spicier than normal and illuminates the garden! Beautiful appearance of orange and a great taste, this pepper can be used to make the best hot sauce!
The Farmer’s Jalapeno
The farmer’s jalapeno is often called the potato pepper because of its odd appearance. It has some strange striation and white marks and they tend to be much larger than the average jalapeno pepper.
Despite all its differences though, it continues to have a great taste and is a perfect pepper to stuff into foods or used in roasts.
Anatomy Of A Jalapeno Pepper
If you’re looking for the most authentic and traditional jalapeno pepper, you’d have to look for the seeds, known as heirloom seeds, which indicate that the pepper has not been hybridized or cross-bred. This will ensure the best and most original flavor.
The different areas of the jalapeno pepper include (starting from the top moving down):
- The peduncle (or the stem)
- The calyx
- The shoulder
- The exocarp
- The mesocarp
- The endocarp
- The seeds
- The placenta (also the capsaicin glands)
- The apex
The jalapeno is much thicker than most other spicy chilli peppers (like the serrano for example). This allows it to have a crunchier texture and a perfect size and thickness to put in things like a salsa sauce or to improve a guacamole.
The jalapeno pepper is very consistent in its anatomy when compared with hotter peppers like the ghost pepper or Carolina reaper, so most plants tend to produce a similar/same looking pepper when it’s grown.
Having said that though, they can alter slightly in size and diameter depending on its conditions where it grows, including the nutrition of the soil or climate. Ideally though, its appearance will be around 3 inches long and have a diameter of 1 inch.
You may have noticed the jalapeno has what appear to be white marks on it. These markings are known as ‘corking’ and they’re totally normal and a natural process in its growth.
It’s just an indicator that the pepper is growing quicker than its skin, and the lines appear when the skin begins to heal.
It’s worth noting that these marks do not play a role in the pepper’s spice and are not indicative of the scoville scale, which some people say. However, it can be used as a way to measure ripeness. Along with noting:
- If the pepper has turned red
- They’ve stopped growing
- It’s a normal period of harvest
If you’ve noticed any of these things, it may be time to bring the peppers in!
Anatomy Of The Jalapeno Plant
When a jalapeno plant is matured, it will be around 3 feet tall and produce about 30 jalapeno pepper pods. If you’ve decided to grow a jalapeno pepper plant at home – you’ll want to regularly cultivate it, as it will continue to produce the peppers.
Growing The Jalapeno Pepper
It’s quite a simple process to grow the jalapeno. The plant itself is a very forgiving plant, but it may take a while to grow inside before going outside (up to 12 weeks in some cases).
The plants should remain damp but not soaked. Effectively, don’t overwater them. Here are some other handy tips to growing your jalapenos:
- Best temperature: Between 70 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit
- Best fertilizer: Tomato fertilizer, manure, seaweed or fish emulsion
- Growth space required: Between 18 and 35 inches apart
- Shade or sun?: Sun!
How Long Does It Take To Grow Jalapenos?
Typically, the jalapeno peppers are ready to pick around 70 days. Of course, this will depend on its growing conditions, including sunlight exposure, the fertilizer used etc.
You can likely continue growing jalapeno peppers with the same plant for around 3 years, but once again – this will be down to conditions.
The Scoville Scale And The Jalapeno
Some people would call the jalapeno pepper the perfect pepper in terms of its spice. It’s not too spicy – in fact, it’s nowhere near the spice level of the hottest pepper (it’s around 1/600th of the spice!).
It’s a fantastic and versatile pepper which can compliment many dishes, but some people can’t handle the heat when it comes to the jalapeno, particularly if they’re eating it raw.
The best way to test if you’ll be able to handle the spice of the pepper is by cutting the tip of the pepper (the bottom) and lightly touching it to your tongue. This is the coolest or least spicy area of the pepper.
The hottest area is where the seeds are – so try your luck there if you want to heat it up!
America And The Jalapeno
It’s probably not surprising that the pepper of choice in the United States is the jalapeno.
This could be due to its perfect balance of spice, the amazing taste, the perfect size or even its versatility as a pepper to go in many dishes, including nachos, chilli, wraps, sandwiches, soup, stew and plenty more!
Health Properties Of The Jalapeno
The jalapeno has 10% of your recommended daily vitamin C – which is more than what an orange offers! So, if you were lacking in some vitamin C, this is the pepper to look for.
If you’re looking for an aid in weight management, then look no further than the jalapeno!
Due to the capsaicin present in most chilli peppers, the body’s metabolism becomes stimulated through its thermogenics – so if you have regular exercise and some spice in your life, you’ll feel and see the pounds burning off!
The jalapeno is one of our favourite and most loved peppers! If you’re looking for recipe ideas, try wrapping bacon around a pepper or add them to chicken wings with cheese!