Jalapeño Peppers have to be the most popular of all the hot peppers out there. Even people who don’t like spicy food love the flavor of jalapeños in things like salsa. And, best of all, they are super easy to grow.
Jalapeños are one of the milder hot peppers in the market ~ as in hot, but not too hot. Even those of you who are heat-adverse can enjoy the gentle warmth that comes from a small amount of finely-minced jalapeno in salsa. Did you know that jalapeños are also a nutritional powerhouse? Everyone knows they add a ton of flavor to food but did you know they also have medicinal value. I will be using some in my next batch of Flu Prevention Tonic.
Jalapeños are a chili pepper and part of the larger pepper family (think bell pepper, banana pepper). They originated in Mexico but can now be found worldwide. They are the same green color as a bell pepper and about the length of your pinky finger (roughly 2-3″). If left on the plant, a jalapeño will gradually turn from green to red and become a little sweeter.
A jalapeño is first a pepper which means like all peppers it has a delicious crunchy texture. When eaten raw it is very spicy. This is what gives salsa its kick. However, cooking the jalapeño will take the spicy down a notch or two which makes it a perfect addition to your favorite cornbread recipe or a big pot of beans.
What makes a jalapeño so spicy? The compound that gives the jalapeño its heat is called capsaicin and is only found in chili peppers. The spicy part is on the inside and found in the seeds and white membranes. Want your food spicy ~ keep the seeds and membranes. Want the flavor without the heat ~ scrape out the seeds and membrane and keep the pepper. There’s even a tool called the Jalapeño Corer for scraping out the seeds and membranes. (affiliate) I’ve never used one because I like spicy foods.
Just about anyone can grow jalapeños and they can be grown in a variety of climates. Most garden centers will have specific information for growing jalapeños in your area. But, the general consensus is to plant once any chance of a frost has passed.
You can start them from seed if you are good at propagation; however, most places that sell plants will set out small 4″ pots at the appropriate time. They will range in price but are generally pretty inexpensive. I usually pay under $1.50 for mine.
In general, peppers are pretty hardy plants that don’t require much space. Here in Central Texas my jalapeños get just enough water to survive the summer, producing a pepper every now and then. Around September or October my plants begin producing big time. In late August and early September, I gave them a little fertilizer to make sure they will produce.
You can pick a jalapeño at almost any stage, but I like to pick when mine are about 2″ long and a nice bright green. If you leave them on the plant they will eventually change from a bright green to a darker green, then to black, and finally turning a bright red.
Jalapeño plants are fairly indestructible and I’ve never lost one or not had one produce. Because they are hot peppers, most bugs and birds stay away. Occasionally, I’ll see one that looks like a bird tried to peck at it, but for the most part, they are a fairly self-sufficient plant that only needs me when it’s time to pick. #gardenersdreamplant
So, why grow your own jalapeños when you can pick up a handful at almost any grocery store. Well, for me, I like to ferment them which is exactly what I’m going to do with my small crop. Doing this means they will last me at least six months.
Another benefit to growing my own is knowing that my jalapeños are completely organic and, when used, will add nutritional value to my recipes.
Cooking with Jalapenos
There are about a million ways to cook with jalapeños. I always use them in Mexican food but occasionally they will find their way into scrambled eggs or chicken recipe.
Fortunately, you don’t have to rely only on me for cooking inspiration. Below are a few ways to cook with jalapeños.