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Everything You Need To Know About Jalapeño

Everything You Need To Know About Jalapeño
Reading Time: 6 minutesJalapeños are a very authentic Mexican food, but they are used a variety of ways in the freshest of dishes! If you choose to eat a jalapeño straight, you might be rushing to the kitchen for a glass of milk due to its spicy nature. To tame it down a bit, simply take away the seeds, but do not forget to wash your hands afterward in case you accidentally touch your eyes! Ouch! Whether you prefer jalapeño jelly, pickled jalapeños, stuffed jalapeños, or the famous jalapeño poppers, you are in for a real treat as well as a nutritious snack. They are rather easy to grow, and thrive in warm climates where they can soak up the sunshine to produce the largest greenest jalapeños you have ever laid your eyes on!

Jalapeno Fun Facts

  • “About 40,000 acres are dedicated to the cultivation of jalapenos in Mexico, primarily in the Papaloapan River basin in the north of the state of Veracruz and in the Delicias, Chihuahua area.
  • August 19th is National Hot & Spicy Food Day.
  • Nutritionally speaking, jalapenos are one of the best sources of vitamin C.
  • Ancient Aztecs were reportedly the first to use jalapenos, but they dried and smoked the peppers rather than eating them.” [1]
  • “Jalapenos (Capsicum annuum) are warm-season pepper plants native to Mexico and grown as annuals throughout the American Southwest.” [2]
  • “Although jalapenos got their name from the town where they originated, Jalapa, Mexico, they are no longer commercially cultivated in that town.
  • Jalapenos were the first peppers that travelled into space on a NASA shuttle.” [3]
  • “Smoke-dried jalapeños are know as chipotles.
  • Jalapeños are America’s favorite chili pepper.” [4]
  • “Pepper pungency is rated in terms of ‘Scovolle heat units” and jalapeños can range from 2,500 to 10,000 Scoville units.” [5]

An example of the Heat Units by pepper:

  • Bell Pepper 0
  • Anaheim 500-1000
  • Pasilla 1000-1500
  • Jalapeño 2500-5000
  • Serrano 5000-15,000
  • Yellow Wax 5000-15,000
  • Cayenne 30,000-50,000
  • Chile Pequin 30,000-50,000
  • Chipotle (dried) 50,000-100,000
  • Habanero 100,000-300,000 [7]
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Jalapeno History/Mythology

Jalapeños are medium sized chili peppers that are used in many Spanish dishes worldwide. These peppers are between 2-3 inches in length, and they are spicy by nature because of capsicum.

According to Colorado State research,

“Capsicum is derived from the Greek word, kapos, “to bite”. The heat comes from a group of alkaloid chemicals called capsaicinoids, principally capsaicin and dihydrocapsaicin. These oily compounds are very soluble in fat and alcohol, but insoluble in water.” [5]

When looking back into the history books of how jalapeños were discovered, they have quite a remarkable story. These peppers date as far back as the Aztecs, and they were a staple for the people to smoke with because their skin was so thick. To this day, it is the most commonly grown chili pepper in Mexico, and for good reason! [6]

According to SB Nature,

“These “peppers” originated in the New World. Since ancient times, chilies have been essential elements of both food and medicine among indigenous peoples from the American Southwest to South America. Although they first evolved south of Amazonia, chili seeds have been found in cultural deposits more than 9000 years old in the Tehuacan Valley, Mexico.” [7]

Both the Aztec and Mayan people ate chili peppers with nearly everything, and they even used them to smoke as mentioned above. To the people, these peppers were said to cure colds, depression, and give the body overall strength, which made them very popular. For the people who fasted for religious purposes, the fast wasn’t from food and water, but just from eating jalapeño peppers and salt. This goes to show just how much they consumed them, if they used them as the staple “fasting” food ban for all people of the religion. They had other uses as well, for some children they would be punished and fumigated with chili smoke, and around other tribes it was seen to prevent witchcraft. If you did not eat the peppers, you were automatically ruled as a sorcerer.

Now you can readily find jalapeños in every grocery store, garden bed, and Mexican restaurant in the Southwest part of the country, as well as Mexico. Before, they were grown just in Mexico, so getting your hands on one required traveling, but they quickly spread all around the world.

According to SB Nature,

“Columbus actually undertook his voyage with the goal of finding a shortcut to the “Spice Islands” of Indonesia, source of spices like nutmeg, mace, and cloves that had been prized throughout Europe for centuries. They helped to mask ‘off’ flavors of food in a time before refrigeration and were also a status symbol: highly spiced foods were a prerogative of the very rich because exotic spices were so expensive and hard to obtain. It was the Portuguese who introduced chilies through their trading activities to Africa, India, and much of Asia.” [7]

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Jalapeño Nutritional Facts

Jalapeños are loaded with a variety of essential vitamins and minerals, which will do nothing but help a body attain better health. They are naturally low in saturated fats, sodium, and calories. They contain a healthy amount of fiber and folate, among many other key vitamins. Some of the vitamins include: vitamin B1, B2, B3, K, C, and A. There are also traces of iron, phosphorus, calcium, omega-3, omega-6, magnesium, copper, and zinc. [8]

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Jalapeño Health Benefits

When it comes to the jalapeño and health benefits, I have just one word: capsaicin. Aside from this word just being really cool to say out loud, it also is very healthy and beneficial to your overall wellbeing. It has been said to be linked to natural pain relief, and Healthy Eating San Fran quotes, “There’s also some very early research suggesting capsaicin might have some cancer-fighting properties, but scientists still aren’t sure how effective it is.” [9]

Being around that family atmosphere when cooking Mexican food or dining out at a restaurant that serves many different jalapeño dishes is enough of a health benefit in and of itself!

Other important and notable benefits to consuming the jalapeno pepper are weight loss benefits due to the presence of capsaicin, as well as relief from arthritis pain. Nasal congestion relief, prevention of cancer, and headache relief are also some exciting benefits that occur when you eat anything jalapeno related! Growing jalapenos on a jalapeno tree is a very cost effective way to make sure you get your fix! Just make sure you plant your tree in a place where there is a lot of sun. You cannot forget that simple detail in the location. [10]

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Jalapeño Varieties

When it comes to different jalapenos to choose from, there is quite the variety! The most popular varieties are:

Standard

“Standard jalapeno varieties produce green peppers, about 3 to 4 inches long, with a heat factor of around 5000 Scoville units.

Early

Early jalapeño plants offer 3.5-inch peppers that are hotter than the standard jalapeño, with an average Scoville rating between 7000 and 9000.

Mild

Those who like the chili flavor but find the heat of standard jalapeños unpleasant may want to try one of the several mild varieties of jalapeños. “Fooled You” and the “Senorita Jalapeno” are mild jalapeño varieties, with a Scoville rating of just 400 units.

Heirloom

Heirloom jalapeño varieties offer unusual fruit characteristics from the standard chilies. For example, the “Sweet Jalapeño” variety produces a smaller, 2-inch pepper with a mild level of heat and sweet, rather than pungent, flavor.” [11]

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Jalapeño Uses

There are so many delicious jalapeno recipes to choose from, like a chimichurri sauce to add onto your tacos or just an amazing stuffed pepper you can find at a Mexican restaurant. Below, there is a great recipe for jalapeno poppers that are sure to excite! Enjoy, and dive in!

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Jalapeño Poppers Recipe

By:Ian Knauer

Yields: 12

Ingredients

  • 12 fresh jalapeños
  • 3 ounces coarsely grated Cheddar (1 cup)
  • 3 ounces coarsely grated Monterey Jack (1 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup plain fine dry bread crumbs
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • About 4 cups vegetable oil

Equipment

  • a deep-fat thermometer

Instructions

  1. “Cut a lengthwise slit from stem to bottom of each chili. Make a crosswise incision at stem end, forming a T.
  2. Pry open enough to hold back long cuts (to expose ribs and seeds), then devein and seed using tip of a paring knife and kitchen shears.
  3. Stir together cheeses, hot sauce, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and 3/4 teaspoon salt.
  4. Fill chilies with cheese mixture, pressing seams closed after filling, so that cheese is compacted and chili retains its shape.
  5. Lightly beat eggs in a small shallow bowl. Stir together bread crumbs, oregano, and 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper in another shallow bowl.
  6. Dip chilies in egg, letting excess drip off, then coat with bread crumbs, transferring to a work surface. Repeat coating with egg and crumbs to form a second layer.
  7. Heat 2 inches oil to 325° Fahrenheit in a medium saucepan. Fry chilies in 3 batches, stirring occasionally, until golden brown all over, 5 to 6 minutes per batch. Transfer to several layers of paper towels to drain. Return oil to 325° Fahrenheit between batches.” [12]
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