Viva Jalapeno Mexicano – The thick pods from Mexico
Doesn’t matter in what form, if you like to eat hot food, Jalapenos are a real delight. In case you didn’t know, these pods are harvested when they are not fully ripe and this is why they are also green. You can as well let these Chilli fully ripen and only afterwards harvest them. In this way the pods are red. For Chipotle, meaning smoked Jalapeno, the fruit has to be ripe. When the Chipotles are smoked there is a pleasant and delicious smell in the air. This is typical for the southwest of the USA and Mexico. A walk through a market in Mexico is recommended for Chill heads. The plant of the Capsicum Annuum grows to a height of about 1,50m and can under very good conditions have up to 120 fruit – a dream come true for every Chilli fan.
The Jalapeno plant can grow up to a height of 1,5m depending in the conditions and the place where the plant is grown. The plant has a thin stem and a small crown. The leaves are oval and are pointy at the tips. Per season each Jalapeno plant can grow 30-120 fruit. This is of course dependent on the location, solar radiation, heat and the nutrients that the plant receives. Only plants that are commercially used for Jalapenos products can have up to 120 fruit. The plant that is grown in the garden usually has about 30 fruit.
Jalapenos the hot pods
The blossoms of the Jalapeño are in the most cases white. There are also varieties like for example the Purple Jalapeño, which have purple blossoms. From the blossom to the ripe pods you can expect to take approximately 70-80 days. The Jalapeño pods can be harvested as well when they are green and this way you can shorten the waiting period until you can eat them. Depending on the variety the Jalapeño pods grow to a length of 7-8 cm and are about 2 cm thick. A special trait of these Chillis is the juicy and thick flesh. In the pod itself you can find the placenta and a lot of Chilli seeds. This way there are almost no cavities in the pod. The pods of almost all the Jalapenos varieties have brown stripes that go the length of the pod when they are ripe, this is the so called corking. In Mexico the corks are a sign of good quality, in the USA the fruits without corking are preferred. Especially the El Jefe has very pronounced corking, which gives the Chilli pod a very hot look! The most Jalapenos are green and when they are ripe turn to a red color. An exception is the Jalapeño Pumpkin Spice, which is orange when ripe and the Purple Jalapeño, which is purple when not ripe and turns red when it is fully ripe.
Where does the Jalapeño come from?
The mane Jalapeño comes from the city Xalapa, which is also known as Jalapa. Jalapeño means “the one from Xalapa”. The name of the Jalapa city originates from Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs and is derived from the words: “roots”, “sand” and “water place”. As you may have already noticed the Jalapeño has a very long history and was used and honored also by the Aztecs, the ancestors of Mexico. After the conquering of America the Europeans have reported about the hot pod and it was then brought as well to Europe. The plants grow better in Mexico because the weather is warmer and the conditions are better suited.
Jalapeños – the small snack star
Jalapeño – or in English without the Spanish accent over the n, which signalizes that the „ñ“ is pronounced like "Jalapenio" is one of the most famous representatives of the Capsicum breed meaning the pepper and the Chilli in general. The rapid rise in the “popular Pepper” league has been made thanks to the globalization of the kitchen culture that has taken place since the 1990’s. While the Jalapeno is an inherent part in the Mexican kitchen for decades and there are dozens of different methods of usage for the Jalapeno, in Europe the TexMex kitchen has become popular only later and together with it the Jalapeno. Over from Spain and Portugal the middle heat Chilli has made its way to central and northern Europe. A drastic jump in popularity has been made when the fast food industry has used the Jalapeno as a hot ingredient in the Burgers, Baguettes and Co. In parallel you could then find them as well in bars, cinemas and a little bit later as well in the supermarkets. For the Tortilla Chips, the salsa has been the number 1 go to ingredient until the creamy cheese or the pickled Jalapenos came into play. Since them this trend has continued and is popular with Chilli beginners and for hardcore Chilli heads alike who love to have a little more heat in the food that they eat. Chilli heads put them on everything like Burgers or Pizza. If you do not prefer the heat as much you can scrape the placenta from inside and dip the Jalapeno for 24 hours in milk. This way the heat gets milder.
What makes the Jalapeno special?
What make this Chilli that in its appearance has nothing spectacular to an all-star in the kitchen? The answer is easy: as already described, this Chilli is compatible with the masses. An almost perfect mix of a thick fleshed paprika and a further known Cayenne Chilli that can be by comparison hot. This Chilli is supposed to have been grown in Mexico and has been named after the city “Xalapa” (former Jalapa). The result: a moderate big and thick fleshed Chilli with little heat and a taste that reminds of a red or green bell pepper.
Do you know how to handle this Chilli classic? Are you an expert?
Here you can see 8 different variants of the middle heat Chilli all-round weapon. Which are they? You can find the answer on the bottom of this page!
*Answer on the bottom of the page!
A capsicum annuum like any other?
Like its relatives the Jalapeno is also part of the capsicum annuum – in slang terms “Spanish pepper”. In pots that are big enough or directly in a good soil (loose nutrients) these plants can grow up to a height of 1.5m and have capsicum annuum type leaves and blossoms that can grow from shining white to purple, depending on the variety. The typical jalapeno plant if you want so, grows from 80cm up to 1m tall and begins making splits from a height of about 30 to 40 cm. The leaves can vary in size, depending on the variety or the conditions from the dimensions of a matchbox to the size of the hand of a woman. What all the Jalapeno plants have in common is the color, a deep green. Lignification of the main stem normally accrues only at the end of the season as a difference to other Capsicum relatives. Side stems lignify only in the second year.
Jalapeno fruit: Varied as only Chillis can be.
What all have in common is the form of the fruit that is longue oval and that has a rounded tip. Here the similitudes end – the color of the fruit can vary from bright yellow to the classic red, continuing with red and ranging to brown. Depending on the variety the fruit can grow to a thickness of 3cm and to a length of about 6-9cm. A typical – and strong visible characteristic of the Jalapenos is the corking. Optical small ruptures in the skin. Similar corking can appear depending on the variety can appear singularly or cannot appear at all or can fill the entire skin so that the Chilli would look as if it would be made out of wood or cork. In Mexico the Jalapenos that have corking are preferred while in the rest of the world the corking is considered not esthetical even though they do not have an influence on the taste.
Hot thing? From mild to wild everything is possible.
Also when it comes to the heat the Jalapenos varieties are very different. The “NuMex” institute has developed a Jalapeno that comes without any heat – The “NuMex Primavera”, other research is trying to do exactly the opposite – to make varieties that have a Scoville rating with 5 numbers. The normal pods, when they are harvested green are somewhere between a Tabasco Sauce (approx. 5.000 Scoville) and a Cayenne Chilli (approx. 25.000 Scoville). In a lot of tables you can find it with 7.500 up to 10.000 Scoville. Red Jalapenos, ones that are ripe rank higher on the Scoville scale but the number shouldn’t be very high above 15.000.
Jalapenos are almost as robust as ivy.
Another reason for its popularity must be as well the easy cultivation of this plant. Jalapenos are very robust and they can take punch from the “beginners” and the problems that are associated with the cultivation of Chilli. Then you can add that Jalapenos are “quick”: from the blossom to the ripe fruit less than 3 months pass. This makes the Jalapenos almost perfect for the seasonal growth also in the colder regions of Europe. There are a lot of varieties that can be bought either as seeds or as already grown plants.
For the cultivation you can have it however you like. You can have it classic on the “fields” as well as in a “bucket” aqua and aero phonic like it is done for bell pepper in a lot of big greenhouses. Which method is best is not so easy to decide. What is sure: the love of the plant owner is also important and the extra effort you put in the more harvest you will have.
Main course or side dish? What do you prefer?
The Jalapenos are harvested depending on how you want to use them. In Europe the Jalapenos are used mostly fresh – and in the majority of cases you can have them green. They are perfectly suited to be filled: in order to do this you have to cut the fruit 3-4 mm below the stem and remove all the seeds that are inside. After you do this the Chilli is rolled with the hand on a flat surface like a board in order to remove the seeds that are inside the Chilli and this way they can be more easily and thoroughly removed. In order to remove all the seeds you can tap the Chilli. The remaining placenta can be afterwards removed with a sharp knife. Beloved fillings are fresh cheese or Cheddar cheese – but there are no limits to the variations that are possible. In order to pot the cap pack on the Chilli (in order to have a better appearance) you can wrap the Chilli in bacon and secure this way also the stem. Depending on the style that you want you can use flower or dough and fry the Chilli. This way the Jalapeno has a crunchy exterior. The name of the fried Jalapenos is referred to as “Jalapeno-Poppers”. If the jalapenos are packed with minced meat and marinated in a hot tomato sauce you can make in the oven a fiery Jalapeno Relleno. This is the hotter version of the filled bell pepper version.
Sour Chili cucumber? – Jalapenos can be also pickled!
The most well-known version in Europe are the sweet-sower pickled Jalapenos (sliced), that are made from green immature fruit. The green Jalapenos can be compared very easily with a green bell pepper, the heat in this case I very light. When the fruit matures, the heat also becomes more. The jalapenos are pickled in water mixed with sugar and vinegar and in some cases with spices – popular is here as well as for the cucumbers that grandma pickles to use mustard seeds. The Chillis are pickled for more reasons: Trough the pickling the Chillis that are not hot lose even more from their heat. Through the vinegar you can feel a little beat of vinegar heat but the mustard seeds give it a little bit of extra kick. The mustards, through its composition helps with the reservation.
Real “Tex Mex”: Chipotles
Fully ripe, usually red Jalapenos are used in the fiery Salsas as well as smoked as “Chipotle” and/or in tomato sauces. Without external help the Jalapenos cannot be dried as easily die to the thick flesh that they have. One of the used methods is the smoking from where the “Chipotle” appears. Not only that the Chilies receive a smoky note, but this assures also a better conservation of the fruit. This way there are countless versions of the Chipotle: dried in tomato sauce, as a paste made from ripe and unripe fruit, quick smoked or long smoked. The most expensive version is the “capones”, these are fully ripe fruit that have been smoked in Mesquite wood and whose seeds have been removed. In the USA, the fresh Chipotle is a beloved ingredient in burgers and in some places, it is even more beloved then the pickled Jalapenos. In Europe, most of the Chipotles can be found in powder form and come handy for spicing the grills or the different stews – like for example the Chili con Carne. It gives the dishes the extra kick and also a smoke flavor. A specialty is Chipotles in Adobo sauce.
Around the Jalapeno there are a lot of dishes and notes and a lot on interesting record attempts. The mascot of the soccer World Cup in Mexico in 1986 that had the name “Pique” a Jalapeno with mustache and a Sombrero: this is a trait that has been copied and is present in different Chilli products and stands for the Tex Mex kitchen.
Chipotle are so essential for the TexMex kitchen that there is a restaurant that has become popular named after the Chilli. Do you want to know even more about this Chilli? Look around on pepperworld.com
Solution to the riddle:
Top row from left to right: El Jefe, Farmer's Market Potato, Lemon Spice, Multi Color
Lower row from left to right: Craig's Grande, Big Guy, Gigantia, Numex Vaquero