Perhaps the most well-known spicy pepper of all time, the Jalapeno Pepper carries quite a bit of a reputation on its shoulders. But is this small green chili pepper really as hot as the rumors say? Or does it have less kick and more use than is commonly known? Read on to find out all the fun facts and truths about jalapeno peppers!
Characteristics of Jalapeno Peppers
The first thing to note about Jalapeno Peppers is really the reputation they are best known for. In some ways, the jalapeno is sort of the poster child for spicy peppers, and often the fear of overwhelming spice will deter folks from ordering certain dishes at restaurants or cooking cuisines for themselves that feature this pepper.
However, despite the notoriety they’ve garnished for their spiciness, the Jalapeno Pepper only ranks on the mild-to-moderate range of the Scoville Scale—the system which is used to register the heat of various peppers.
In fact, a single pepper contains only about 2,500 to 8,000 Scoville heat units, making them less spicy than cayenne peppers—which are a common seasoning found in many people’s cabinets!
Jalapenos stand out in their familiarity with deep green, pod-like bodies reaching around 2 to 3 inches in length. If a Jalapeno matures to a red shade, it is then classed as a “chipotle” pepper, which has various other uses.
The taste of a green Jalapeno Pepper, offering more than just a stroke of spicy heat, is actually a bit bitter and grassy, which makes it a perfect complement to many dishes.
Eating Jalapeno Peppers
Though they are commonly thought of as accompany cuisine from their native Mexico, or featuring in overall spicy dishes, Jalapeno Peppers actually have quite a diverse range of use!
First and foremost, of course, are the popular uses for Jalapenos. This includes chopping them up for salsa, Mexican cuisine, Tex-Mex concoctions, and so forth. They make a great garnish on tacos and burritos and can also be enjoyed mixed with corn and beans to give a potent kick of flavor to an otherwise middle of the road taste profile.
However, the various ways to enjoy jalapenos does not stop there! Because of their mild-to-moderate spiciness, these peppers can add a really wonderful, full-bodied flavor to a lot of dishes without overwhelming them in spice!
Some of the unique ways to enjoy Jalapeno Peppers include in a mango salsa to help cut the sweetness, or made into jalapeno jelly, which can be delicious on burgers and sandwiches. Candied jalapenos are rising in popularity and are great both on their own or paired with fruit to balance the kick of heat.
Stuffed jalapenos are also a hugely popular dish! Jalapeno poppers with cream cheese and bacon-stuffed jalapenos are just two of the beloved ways to enjoy these spicy peppers.
You can also add them to any number of dishes, especially those with a tendency toward one-note flavors, in order to kick them up a notch. Some of these to consider are fried foods like fried chicken or fish, and milder sides such as mashed potatoes or macaroni and cheese.
When preparing jalapenos for cooking, one thing to be aware of is the importance of handling them properly! While the taste of these peppers is relatively mild compared to others, they do contain a nutrient called capsaicin, which gives them their heat.
Handling Jalapeno Peppers barehanded in the grocery story is fine, but once you begin cutting into them, the capsaicin is released and can occasionally cause burns to skin, or more often, to the eyes if you touch around them without thoroughly washing your hands.
To avoid this “chili burn,” it’s best to wear kitchen gloves when cutting or handling cut Jalapeno Peppers.
Health Benefits of Jalapeno Peppers
Like many chili peppers, Jalapenos get a bad rap for their spice. However, they bring much more to the table in terms of nutritional benefits than many people know!
Jalapeno Peppers offer a good dose of various vitamins including C, K, and A, which help bolster the immune system, lower inflammation, and help with your eyesight. They are also a great source of fiber, which helps regulate digestive health.
Another unique and wonderful health benefit of jalapenos and other chili peppers is the capsaicin that gives them their hot quality. This alkaloid compound helps boost metabolism, leading to an overall healthier weight, as well as showing promise in many studies for helping to combat various types of cancer cells.
Other health benefits that have been observed from consuming jalapenos include reduced appearance of stomach ulcers, better heart health, pain relief, quicker healing from infections, and more!
While one should always be mindful of their bio individual needs and monitor how their unique digestive system responds to eating Jalapeno Peppers, it can’t be denied—these peppers pack a powerhouse of nutritional benefits!
Growing Jalapeno Peppers at Home
With their vast popularity and wide range of benefits, it’s no surprise Jalapeno Peppers are very popular for home-growing. The good news is, they are also a relatively easy pepper to grow and maintain in your backyard garden as well!
Jalapeno peppers thrive best in loamy soil with a pH balance that is acidic to neutral, as well as moist and well-draining. They need full sunlight and require regular watering whenever the soil gets dry below about an inch of depth. They are also heavy feeders, so a rich compost and additional fertilizing and plant food may be required to help them do their best.
Jalapeno Peppers can be started indoors 8 to 10 weeks before the final threat of frost has passed in your growing area, and can be either transplanted or direct-seeded in the soil once the ground is reliably above 60 degrees.
You should avoid planting them near other members of the nightshade family, such as tomatoes, in your garden as they can transmit diseases and pests to each other.
Plant your Jalapeno Peppers about 14 to 16 inches apart in rows with 2 to 3 feet between them. Keep them well-watered and composted, and you should see a great harvest into the summer months until the first frost!
Where to Buy Jalapeno Pepper Seeds
Jalapeno seeds are often quite easy to find in local stores. However, if sourcing online, we recommend purchasing seeds from Hoss Tools.
Wrapping up Jalapeno Peppers
Excited to grow a bumper crop of Jalapeno Peppers in your garden? Before you get started, be sure to check out our Peppers page! This will help you stay educated on pepper plant care, pests and diseases to watch out for, and more!