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Jalapeño: The Characteristics
- Scoville Scale (SHU): 2,500 – 8,000
- Compared to a Jalapeño: Obviously 1 🙂
- Origin: Mexico
Origin and diffusion
Jalapeno peppers are native to the Mexico and have a long history dating back to pre-Columbian civilizations. Their diffusion occurred mainly thanks to Mexican cuisine, which made them popular all over the world. Today, jalapenos are among the hot peppers best known and prized for both their flavor and their versatility in the kitchen.
Jalapenos are hot peppers from medium size, usually long between 5 and 9 cm, with a slightly conical shape and a rounded tip. Their surface is usually smooth, but may have featurescraquelure” or streaks, indicating a greater maturation of the pepper. Jalapeños can vary in color from green to red, depending on ripeness, and have a degree of spiciness moderate on the Scoville scale.
The history of jalapeno peppers
Jalapeno peppers have deep roots in the pre-Columbian civilizations of Mexico, especially among the Aztecs hey Maya. These populations used jalapeños not only as food, but also for medicinal and religious purposes. The ancient Mexicans believed that chili peppers had Magic powers and used them in rituals and ceremonies.
The Spanish flu and its spread around the world
With the arrival of the Spanish in America, jalapeno peppers began to spread to the rest of the world. The Spaniards were fascinated by the flavor and spiciness of these peppers and brought them to Europe, where they became popular especially in the spanish cuisine. From there, jalapenos spread to other parts of the world, becoming a staple ingredient in the cuisine of many countries, such as the United States, where they are extremely popular in Tex-Mex cuisine.
The varieties of jalapeno
Green and red jalapeno
Jalapeno peppers mainly come in two colors: green and red. The green jalapenos are the fruit immature of the plant, while the red jalapenos are the ripe fruits. The ripening of the fruit affects the flavor and spiciness, with red jalapenos tending to be slightly sweeter and spicier than the greens.
“Yellow” and “Purple” Jalapeno
There are also yellow and purple jalapeno varieties, which are actually variations of the green and red jalapeno. Yellow jalapenos are immature greens that have started to ripen and are turning red, while purple jalapenos are somewhere between green and red. These varieties are rarer and often used for purposes decorative as well as culinary.
Special hybrids and cultivars
Over the years, numerous jalapeno cultivars and hybrids have been developed to meet the needs of growers and consumers. Some of these hybrids have been created to raise the disease resistance, improve performance or modulate the degree of spiciness. Some popular varieties include the "Tam Mild“, a less spicy jalapeno, and the “Jalapeno Mucho Nacho”, that is bigger and meatier than the traditional jalapeno.
Characteristics and peculiarities of jalapeños
Size and shape
Jalapeno peppers have an elongated and slightly pointed shape, with the length varying between 5 and 10 centimeters and a diameter of about 2.5 cm. Their surface is smooth and slightly shiny, with a fleshy pulp and a thick wall.
Flavor and spiciness
Jalapeños have a fresh, slightly sweet flavor with medium to high heat. Their spiciness ranks between 2,500 and 8,000 points on Scoville scale, which makes them less hot than other varieties of peppers, such as for example habanero or ghost peppers. However, the spiciness of the jalapenos can vary depending on the growing conditions and maturation.
The "craquelure" on the surface
A distinguishing feature of some jalapenos is the presence of "craquelure" or stripes on the surface of the fruit. These streaks are actually scars due to the rapid growth of the pepper and are considered a sign of maturity and intense flavour. Craquelure jalapenos tend to be hotter and tasty than those with a smooth surface.
The degree of spiciness of the jalapenos
The Scoville scale is a system for measuring the spiciness of peppers, devised in 1912 by pharmacologist Wilbur Scoville. This scale ranges from 0 (mild, no hot peppers) to over 2 million (extremely hot peppers, like the Carolina Reaper). Jalapenos rank among the 2,500 and 8,000 points on the Scoville scale, which makes them medium spicy.
Factors affecting spiciness
The spiciness of jalapeno peppers can vary based on several factors, including growing conditions, maturity, and plant genetics. environmental factors such assun exposure, the soil type and the amount of water receipt can affect the production of capsaicin, the compound responsible for the spiciness in chili peppers. Also, the jalapenos harvest when they are fully mature (usually red in color) tend to be hotter than those harvested in the green ripening stage.
Growing and harvesting jalapeños
Ideal growing conditions
Jalapeno peppers grow best in warm and sunny environments, with temperatures between 20 and 30 degrees Celsius. They prefer well-drained soils rich in organic matter and with a pH between 6.0 and 6.8. It is important to provide plants with constant watering and uniformbut avoid overwatering which could cause root rot and disease.
Seeding and transplanting
Planting jalapenos can be done indoors, approx 8-10 weeks before the last expected winter frost. The seedlings should be transplanted outdoors when night temperatures are consistently above 10 degrees Celsius and the risk of frost has passed. It is important to leave a space of at least 45-60cm between plants to allow for good air circulation and to facilitate growth.
Plant care and maintenance
While growing, jalapeno peppers may require stakes or supports to prevent the branches from snapping under the weight of the fruit. It's also important to monitor the plants regularly to identify any signs of disease or parasite infestation and intervene promptly with suitable treatments.
Harvest and maturation
The jalapenos can be harvested starting about 70-80 days after transplanting, when they reach a length of about 7-10 cm and take on a bright green colour. If you prefer a spicier flavor, you can leave to ripen the fruits on the plant until they turn red. To harvest the peppers, it is advisable to use scissors or a knife, cutting the stem about 0.5 cm from the fruit.
Using jalapenos in cooking
The jalapeno poppers are delicious appetizers consisting of jalapeno peppers stuffed with cheese, usually Cheddar or cream, wrapped in bacon or breaded and fried. They are crunchy on the outside, soft and creamy on the inside, and offer a nice contrast between the spicy flavor of the chilli and the sweetness of the cheese.
Salsa verde is a Mexican salsa made with green jalapeno peppers, tomatillos, onion, garlic, cilantro, and lime juice. This sauce fresh and spicy is perfect to accompany tacos, nachos, enchiladas and many other recipes of Mexican cuisine.
Chiles en nogada
Chiles en nogada is a traditional Mexican dish that celebrates the colors of the national flag. It consists of poblano peppers (a variety similar to jalapenos) stuffed with minced meat, fruit and spices, covered in nut sauce (nogada) and garnished with pomegranate seeds. This dish is full of flavours and contrasts and is especially popular during national holidays in Mexico.
Creative ideas for using jalapenos
Sweet and Sour Jalapeno
Sweet and sour jalapenos are one preserve tasty and versatile that combines the spiciness of the peppers with the sweetness of the sugar and the acidity of the vinegar. They can be used to garnish hamburgers, hot dogs, sandwiches and salads, or as a condiment for meat and fish dishes.
Jalapeno in the pizza
Adding thinly sliced jalapenos to pizza is a delicious and simple way to add a spicy twist to your favorite dish. The jalapeños they match perfectly with ingredients like pepperoni, sausage, chicken, onions and peppers.
Jalapeno in cocktails
Jalapenos can also be used to garnish spicy and original touch to your cocktails. For example, you can prepare a jalapeño margaritas adding a slice of muddled jalapeno in the bottom of the glass to the traditional margarita recipe. Or, you can make a spicy bloody mary adding chopped jalapenos to the tomato spice mix.
Storing jalapeno peppers
To preserve jalapeno peppers in oil, you need to sterilize the glass jars and their lids. Chili peppers must be washed, dried and cut into rings or halves. Subsequently, fill the jars with the chillies, add one or two cloves of garlic and/or a few basil leaves to flavor, and cover with olive or seed oil. Close hermetically jars and store in a cool, dark place.
Pickled jalapeno peppers are a delicious and crunchy preserve. To prepare them, you need to sterilize the jars and lids, and wash and cut the peppers into rings. In a saucepan, bring a mix of white wine vinegar, sugar and salt to the boil, then pour it into the jars until the chillies are completely covered. Close hermetically and store in one place cool and dark.
Jalapeno drying and powder
Another method of preservation is drying jalapeno peppers. You can dry them in the sun, in a low temperature oven or with a food dryer. Once dried, they can be kept whole in glass jars or finely chopped to obtain one spicy powder to be used as a spice in various recipes.
Health benefits of jalapenos
Vitamins and minerals
Jalapeno peppers are rich in vitamins and essential minerals for our body. They contain vitamins A, C and K, as well as minerals such as potassium, manganese and copper. There C vitamin, in particular, is a powerful antioxidant that protects cells from damage caused by free radicals and helps keep the immune system healthy.
Capsaicin and anti-inflammatory properties
Capsaicin, the compound responsible for the spiciness of chili peppers, has been shown to possess anti-inflammatory properties. This can help reduce pain and swelling caused by various inflammatory conditions, such as arthritis. Additionally, capsaicin may help reduce the risk of developing inflammation-related chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease.
Effects on metabolism
Jalapeno peppers can too stimulate the metabolism, thanks to the presence of capsaicin. Consuming spicy foods can temporarily increase the thermogenesis, i.e. the production of heat in the body, which in turn burns calories and speeds up the metabolism. However, the effect on weight loss is usually modest And does not replace a balanced diet and regular physical activity.
The importance of jalapeños in cuisine and culture
Jalapeno peppers take up a prominent place in the cuisine and culture of many countries, especially in Mexico and the United States. Their versatility and unique flavor make them a key ingredient in many traditional and modern recipes. In addition to their culinary qualities, jalapenos offer numerous health benefits, thanks to the vitamins, minerals and capsaicin they contain.
Experiment in the kitchen with jalapenos can be an exciting and rewarding experience, both for experienced cooks and for food enthusiasts looking for new flavors. Whether preparing a traditional Mexican dish or adding a touch of spice to a home-style recipe, jalapenos are an excellent choice for those looking to add depth and character to their dishes!