The Jalapeno pepper is one of the world’s most well known spicy chili pepper. It is produced in huge numbers in Mexico, and is used in cuisine across the globe. It is also one of my personal favorite peppers to grow at home, thanks to it being easy to maintain, and a very prolific producer.
Basic Info about Jalapenos:
If you’re curious about the Jalapeño pepper, or just want to know how to use it in your cooking, you’re in the right place. In this article, I will share everything about the jalapeno, from the spiciness level, to how to grow them, to how to safely store them at home.
Click to Skip Ahead:
- Origin & History
- Heat Level of Jalapenos
- Other Varieties of Jalapeno
- Growing Jalapenos
- How To Use & Store Jalapenos
Where are Jalapeños From?
Usage of the jalapeno pepper dates back 1000s of years in South America. They were most notably cultivated and smoked for long-term storage, and thus the Chipotle pepper was born. With its origins in Mexico, the Jalapeño pepper’s name literally means “from Jalapa” (or Xalapa), which is a large city in Mexico. This is where the pepper was originally cultivated.
Mexico is still the most prolific country for producing Jalapeno peppers, with an estimated 70,000 acres (approx. 109 square miles) dedicated to growing them. They are also produced in large numbers in the United States, primarily in Texas and New Mexico which both border with Mexico. The climate is ideal, as this region is where the pepper was originally discovered.
Over 22 million pounds of Jalapeños originated from Mexico in 2016 alone.(Source)
In order to taste the most original type of Jalapeno pepper, you should look for seeds deemed “heirloom” seeds. These are varieties of the jalapeno that have not been cross bred or hybridized. They will give the most authentic and original flavor of the indigenous pepper.
Characteristics of the Jalapeño Pepper
The Jalapeno pepper is know as the “fat chili” pepper (or chile gordo), due to its rotund shape. When compared to other spicy chili peppers, like the serrano pepper, it is much thicker. This means that the pepper has a great crunch and thickness for chunky salsa and spicy guacamole.
Appearance Of Jalapenos
Unlike many of the super hot peppers, like the Carolina Reaper or the Ghost Pepper, the jalapeno is a very consistent looking pepper. Plants tend to produce very similar peppers in appearance, across the board.
Depending on soil nutrition and growing season length, peppers can be longer, wider and sometimes more spicy. In ideal conditions, the peppers will reach around 3-4 inches in length, and about 1 inch in diameter.
Have you ever grown a weird looking jalapeno? Let us know, we’d love to see it!
How Hot Is A Jalapeno?
A Jalapeno pepper is a traditional spicy pepper that is commercially available. It is a common ingredient in salsa, taco fillings, guacamole, and lots of other spicy dishes. However, on the Scoville Heat Unit scale, the Jalapeño is relatively tame.
At just 2500-8000 Scoville Heat Units (SHUs), the jalapeño pepper is about 1/600th the heat of the world’s hottest peppers.
The Jalapeno pepper ranks between 2,500 and 8,000 SHUs on the Scoville scale. We think that the Jalapeño has the perfect amount of heat for most cooking applications, but can be too spicy for many people when eaten raw. Depending on growing conditions, jalapeño pepper heat can range from almost unnoticeable, to very spicy.
Tip: Try testing your jalapeño peppers hotness by slicing off the very tip of the pepper and quickly dabbing it on your tongue. This is the least spicy part of the pepper, and will have just a bit of heat if the pepper is a spicy one. If you are more brave, slice off the stem side and give it a taste. This is where the membrane and seeds are, along with much more heat.
Other Types of Jalapeno Pepper
Over the years, plant breeders have crossed many other pepper varieties with the Jalapeno. This is a safe process (learn more about plant breeding here), and has produced some of the hottest, and most bizarre pepper varieties that exist.
Here are a few hybrid varieties of Jalapeno Peppers that exhibit different characteristics than the original.
This yellow variety of jalapeño was produced by New Mexico State University, and has a vibrant color. They are still a very productive plant, and have the same heat level of a traditional jalapeno. Add some beautiful color to your home grow with this hybrid variety.
This variety of jalapeno has the same great taste of a true jalapeno, but has none of the heat. It is a sweet, green pepper for those who can’t take the heat!
Another vibrantly colored hybrid, the orange spice jalapeno will stand out in your garden. With great heat and high productivity, this is a great pepper to spice things up. These would also produce a beautiful color for homemade hot sauce!
One of the more distinct and bizarre varieties, the Farmer’s Jalapeno pepper has lots of “corking” or striation marks. Some refer to this pepper as the potato pepper, due to its appearance. However, the white marks do not change the delicious flavor. Also, these peppers grow to be very large for a Jalapeno. That makes them great for stuffing or roasting!
Growing Jalapeño Peppers
It is satisfying to grow and eat your own produce at home. Growing jalapenos is extremely satisfying, because you often end up harvesting 20 or 30 peppers off of each plant! Here is the basic overview of how to grow your own jalapeno peppers at home.
Where to buy Jalapeño Seeds Online
There are a number of great resources for Jalapeno seeds, but if you are looking for a traditional pepper, simply use Amazon. Seeds are very affordable, and one packet should keep for 2 years or more when stored in a cool, dark place.
If you want to grow more unique Jalapeno peppers, try either rareseeds.com or Semillas.de. Both have great variety of seeds and offer affordable pricing. You can also order in bulk if you want to grow lots of peppers!
When to Plant Jalapeño Seeds Indoors
Depending on your climate, you may need to start your plants indoors. In climate zones 4-7+, you should start your jalapeno seeds indoors between February 15th – March 15th. You may start earlier, or later depending on your growing season, but early March tends to be the sweet spot. Plants are then hardened off and moved outdoors around May 1st, or whenever the risk of frost is gone.
Use this handy planting calendar and input your postal code for basic instructions on when to plant your pepper seeds indoors.
How Long Until Jalapeño Plants Produce Peppers
First off, jalapeno plants need as much sun during the day as possible. If you do not have a location with full sun, try to relocate your plants for ideal conditions. With full sun, you can expect your peppers to produce within the typical period of time. With less sunlight, the peppers can take longer to mature.
Most jalapeno varieties are harvested mid to late season. This means that generally speaking, jalapenos are ready to pick about 70-80 days after transplanting outdoors. For most people in hardiness zones 4-7, this means that harvesting starts in late July. However, if you got a late start on your pepper plants, or your plants don’t get full sunlight, you may need to wait until August or later for peppers to ripen.
What Are The White Lines on Jalapeno Peppers?
Jalapeno peppers will often develop small white lines along the pepper’s skin during ripening. They appear as cracks, but are actually scars from the peppers growing quicker than the skin. When the skin breaks, the pepper heals and forms these lines.
This is completely normal, and is know as “corking” to seasoned pepper growers. It is actually a desirable characteristic, and often indicates a pepper is mature and ripe.
One myth regarding these striation marks is that they mean the pepper is more spicy. This is not true, although a more mature pepper is usually hotter than an under-ripened pod.
How can you tell when Jalapenos are ripe?
It is easy to know when your jalapenos are ready for picking. Look for these telltale signs of a ripe jalapeno:
- Peppers turning red
- White marks appearing on peppers
- Growth has slowed or stopped
- Recommended harvest period has arrived
Don’t be afraid to pick your peppers. They can be harvested at any time during the growth period. One consequence of picking a pepper too early is that it may not have had time to properly develop seeds. You may also experience lower heat levels. However, you should pick the peppers as soon as you feel they are ready so that the plant can focus energy on producing more peppers!
How To Use Jalapenos
Do you have a bunch of jalapeños in the fridge? Need some ideas on how to use them? There are tons of ways to cook, preserve and store your jalapeño peppers after you have harvested. Here are a few ideas.
A key component of salsa? You guessed it, jalapeños. The other ingredients are tomatoes, onions, garlic, cilantro, salt, and maybe a little bit of lime juice. Experiment with proportions and use your peppers to add the desired amount of heat. Whip it all together and dig in!
Why do cucumbers get all the love when it comes to pickles? Making pickled jalapenos at home is easy. All you need is some vinegar, salt, spices and your peppers.
Make Hot Sauce
Making your own hot sauce can be a fun experiment at home. If you have a blender or a food processor, you can make hot sauce in about 1 hour! Be sure you be careful and follow our guide to avoid any of the common mistakes and issues.
Dry Them For flakes
One last option is to dry your peppers to store them for many months. This method also allows you to grind the peppers and produce a hot pepper flake or powder. This is one of the simplest methods to use your jalapeno peppers, and can make for a great addition to many meals.
I hope this article gave you some great ideas about jalapeno peppers, and how to get the most out of them. They are one of the most versatile hot peppers available, so it’s no wonder you can pick them up at almost any grocery store. Thanks for reading!