As one of the most well-known and popular peppers in the world, the jalapeño is practically synonymous with cuisine in the country of Mexico. In fact, the word jalapeño is Spanish for “from Xalapa,” the capital of the Mexican state Veracruz, and their cultivation in Mexico has been ongoing since the time of the Aztecs. These days, the jalapeño pepper is grown in many countries around the world, including in the United States (primarily in New Mexico, Texas, and California). But jalapeños are more than just a spicy addition to many tasty dishes; they’re also packed with nutrients.
What Is a Jalapeño Pepper?
Jalapeños are undoubtedly the best-known cultivar of the species Capsicum annum, a type of chile pepper plant native to North and South America; other common cultivars of the same species include bell peppers (red and green), cayenne peppers, serrano peppers, and poblano peppers. Jalapeños are a medium-sized pepper that typically grows to be about 2-4 inches long and 1-1.5 inches wide. Jalapeño plants typically produce about 25 to 30 peppers, and they can be harvested numerous times during a single growing season.
Depending on a person’s subjective experience, two different colors may come to mind when thinking of a fresh jalapeño pepper: green or red. Like other chili peppers, jalapeños first emerge and grow into green pod-type peppers; as the jalapeño continues to mature, it gradually changes from green to red. Red technically means that the pepper is ripe, but growers selectively harvest both green and red at different times. In addition to the striking color differences, the two types of jalapeños tend to have other differences as well. For example, red jalapeños are usually spicier while green jalapeños have a more fresh and crisp flavor.
How Spicy Are Jalapeño Peppers?
Jalapeños, like most other types of chili peppers, are known for being spicy and pungent, though they are far from the spiciest kind. Pepper spiciness or heat can be compared by using a measurement known as the Scoville scale, a method developed by an American pharmacist named Wilbur Scoville in 1912. The Scoville scale measures the level of spiciness by evaluating the concentration of capsaicin, a chemical component of peppers that causes a burning sensation in the mucous membranes of most mammals.
Having a higher concentration of capsaicin means a higher heat level, and this is expressed in terms of Scoville Heat Units (SHU). At the bottom of the Scovill scale are the mildest peppers like banana and bell peppers; these are usually rated from 0 to 5,000 SHU. Habanero peppers, a famously hot pepper, can top out at 350,000 SHU, but the hottest peppers can exceed 2 million SHU! In fact, one of the hottest peppers ever tested is the Carolina Reaper at 2.2 million SHU. By contrast, the ranger of the humble jalapeño is a relatively modest 3,500 to 30,000 SHU.
Preparation and Uses of Jalapeño Peppers
Even though jalapeños aren’t nearly as spicy as other chile peppers, the effect of capsaicin on heat and pain receptors in the body can be quite unpleasant for some people. To avoid exposing the skin or eyes to unnecessary irritation, proper preparatory steps are beneficial. After discarding the stem and washing under cold water, cut the pepper lengthwise and discard the seeds and white pith. Most of the capsaicin (and thus most of the heat) is concentrated in the seeds and pith; some who are especially sensitive to it may need to wear food prep gloves. It is also important to thoroughly wash your hands, the knife, and any surface that came into contact with the peppers afterwards.
However, because jalapeño peppers are comparatively mild, many people can easily tolerate even the amount of “heat” contained in the seeds and pith; indeed, many types of cuisine use the entire pepper by default. But whatever your comfort zone for spiciness is, the jalapeño remains a versatile pepper that is often prepared in a variety of different ways, including:
- Pickled: The pickling of jalapeños is a common practice, especially in Mexico and the southwest United States. Cans or jars of pickled jalapeños can widely be found in grocery stores, but it’s also easy to make your own with just white vinegar, salt, and water.
- Stuffed: The mostly hollow nature of the jalapeño makes it very easy to stuff. Once the seeds and pith have been removed, the cavity can be filled with cheese or many other ingredients.
- Grilled: Grilling jalapeños, or otherwise exposing them to flames (as with a broiler or a gas burner), brings out more of a sweetness and tempers the spiciness. Peppers prepared in this way are often used in salsas.
- Deep-fried: A popular way to prepare jalapeños is to bread them and deep fry them (sometimes known as jalapeño poppers).
- Roasted: Roasted peppers are also somewhat sweeter and are similarly used in salsas and hot sauces.
- Sauteed: Jalapeño peppers are often sauteed or stir-fried along with vegetables.
- Raw: While not for the faint-hearted, jalapeños can also be eaten raw; one classic example is to dice up fresh jalapeños and sprinkle them over nachos.
At Silva, field-fresh peppers are sorted, washed, cored, trimmed, and air-dried. After various cleaning, sorting, and food safety steps are conducted, the product is cut or milled into the desired cut size and then able to be used in a wide variety of applications including seasoning blends, salad dressings and salad products, sauces, soups and stews, pasta products, hummus, rice products, chips and snacks, cheese and dairy products, meats and sausages, and ready meals. A roasted version is also available to create a smoked look and flavor.
What Are the Health Benefits of Jalapeños?
Beyond being delicious and zesty, jalapeños are also fortunately a great source of nutrients and a beneficial part of a healthy diet. For starters, a jalapeño pepper has more than double the vitamin C of an orange while also being a good source of vitamin A, potassium, and Vitamin B6. There is also evidence that the capsaicin found in jalapeños may be mildly beneficial for weight loss; this is believed to be in part because of the thermogenic effect of capsaicin on the body’s metabolism.
Silva: Premium Air-Dried Ingredients
Because of the flavor, spice level, and nutritional content, jalapeño peppers remain one of the most popular peppers in the world. Delivering that memorable, spicy flavor to your customers is a partnership—we provide ingredients that you turn into products that meet customers’ diverse needs. If you’d like more information, contact us, or request a sample online. We promise to provide a partnership experience that is good for you and your business.