The jalapeño is a medium-sized chili pepper pod type cultivar of the species Capsicum annuum. Originating in Jalapa (Xalapa), Mexico, the capital city of the Mexican state of Veracruz. Commonly picked and consumed while still green, it is occasionally allowed to fully ripen and turn red, orange, or yellow. It is wider and generally milder than the similar Serrano pepper. The jalapeño is variously named huachinango, for the ripe red jalapeño, and chile gordo (meaning "fat chili pepper") also known as cuaresmeño.
Jalapeno is a perennial small herbaceous plant with a woody stem growing up to a meter in height. It grows well under fertile, well-drained soil conditions. Jalapeño peppers are planted in the spring after all danger of frost has passed from nursery starts or from seeds started indoors. They have a fast growth rate, taking three to four months from germination to produce fruits that can be harvested. Be aware that the leaves and fruits of jalapeño plants contain capsaicin, a compound that creates a burning sensation and can be toxic to both people and pets.
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1 - 3.5 feet
0.5 - 1.5 feet
5.8 - 6.8
Growth Nutrition of Jalapeño Peppers
The three key nutrients you need for your pepper plants are nitrogen, phosphate, and potassium. Nitrogen is the most important element as it supports the regulation of photosynthesis, which then encourages foliage production and leafy growth. Pepper plants would look a little strange without leaves, so nitrogen will help them develop healthy leaves and pepper pods. Phosphate provides phosphorous, which enables plants to consume solar energy. This second key nutrient allows the pepper plant to absorb energy from the sun which is what it needs to develop strong roots and robust peppers. The last key nutrient is Potassium, which plays a critical role in water and nutrient movement, allowing photosynthesis to happen smoothly. In other words, the elements keep water and other nutrients flowing through a plant.
In addition to the three key nutrients we explained above, there is a collection of additional nutrients your pepper plants will need. Pepper plants are partial to three secondary nutrients which are Calcium, Magnesium, and Sulfur, which the plants will need in smaller quantities. Calcium helps other nutrients get into the plant and creates enzymic reactions. Magnesium is responsible for the creation of chlorophyll, the green pigment that’s crucial in photosynthesis. It also helps create ATP and calcium pectinate, which glues the cell walls together. Sulfur, the last secondary nutrient, is best known for its ability to control insects and fungal diseases, but it’s also necessary to produce amino acids, vitamins, and enzymes.
Types of Jalapeño Peppers
There are five species of chilli peppers most commonly grown for human consumption. Each of these species has multiple sub species or cultivars leading to the reality that there are actually hundreds of types of hot peppers.
‘Aji Omnicolor’ is prized for its culinary value but more so for its aesthetic appeal. It grows on a beautiful plant that produces an array of colorful hot peppers that measure 30,000 – 50,000 on the scoville scale. The peppers are 2 to 3 inches in length and fairly thin. They begin as a very pale white yellow and morph is stages to a yellow green, various shades of yellows and oranges, and eventually to a deep fire engine red at maturity. Produces very abundantly, also has peepers at various stages of ripeness and coloration simultaneously.
‘Billy Biker’ jalapeño peppers are relatively large, measuring 2 inches at the shoulder and 3.5 inches in length. Turns red when mature.
Named for one time television personality and biker Billy Hufnagle. Scoville Scale average 10,000 up to 30,000 claimed in some instances under horticultural coaxing.
Black is beautiful and this jalapeño pepper wears it well. All jalapeño fruit, with time, develop a black ‘blush’ on the side that gets the most sun.
Black jalapeño was bred to be black as midnight. It is fairly sweet so far as jalapeños go registering around 2,000 – 2500 on the scoville scale. Produces prolifically.
Chichimeca is Medium hot. Fairly large hybrid jalapeño at about 4 inches long and 1.5 inches round. Good disease resistance is another factor this plant was bred for.
Scoville scale 2,500 – 5,000 average. Up to 8,000 under horticultural coaxing.
Medium hot. 3 to 4.5 inches up to 1.5 inches round. Tolerant of temperature fluctuations, drought resistant but will also withstand cold damp weather for short durations.
Peppers begin as standard jalapeño green and morph to a purple black and eventually a deep crimson red when fully mature. Scoville scale 2,500 – 5,000 average. Up to 8,000 under horticultural coaxing.
Chipotle peppers are dried, smoked red jalapeño peppers. They are used in a variety of Mexican and Tex-Mex dishes. Chipotle peppers have a unique flavor that is smoky, earthy, and slightly sweet and typically maintain the 2,500 to 8,000 Scoville heat range of fresh jalapeños.
3 to 4 inch long fruits 1.5 to 2 inch diameter. Moderately hot at 2500 to a max of 5,000 on the scoville scale.
Medium hot 2500 to 8,000 on the scoville scale. Yields up to two weeks earlier than most varieties as its name implies. Germination in about 14-21 days and Maturity at 60 to 65 days. Taste and texture is comparable to standard jalapeño.
Medium hot variety at 3,000 to 8,000 on the scoville scale. 3 to 3.5 inches long with a diameter of about 1 inch. Starts green and matures to brilliant red on a plant that is 1.5 to 2 feet tall.
Fuego (aka Jalafuego)
3.5 to 4 inch crack resistant peppers. Medium hot, Scoville scale 2,500 – 5,000 average. Up to 8,000 under horticultural coaxing. Not to be confused with another variety of non jalapeño also called fuego.
Medium hot 2 to 3 inches long up to 1.5 inch diameter. Starts out green and matures to red. Early season variety harvest attained in 60-70 days.
Very similar to early jalapeño mentioned above but Jalpa is a tad higher on the scoville scale sometimes peaking at 10,000 scoville units.
Jalaro Jalapeno (aka Yellow Jalapeno)
Jalaro is a very colorful variety sometimes grown for its ornamental value. Begins as a golden yellow, morphs to orange and matures as a deep red. Resistant to many common pepper plant diseases.
Developed by the Texas Agriculture Extension Service in the early 1990s this jalapeno reaches 8,000 on the scoville scale and sometimes as low as 2500.
Jwala Pepper (aka Indian Finger Hot Pepper)
Originating in India this pepper reflects the Indian cultural craving for hot spicy food. It registers 20,000 – 30,000 on the scoville scale.
Medium hot 1,000 to 5,000 on scoville scale. A very big variety that yields an early harvest. Peppers reach just shy of 5 inches in length by 1.75 inches in diameter.
Start as dark green and morph to red when mature. They are commonly used green. Best for stuffing, but good for any other recipes.
Medium hot early maturing variety. 2 to 3 inches long by 1 inch or less diameter. Matures from green to red.
Produces high yields of very uniform large peppers, prized commercially. The strong upright growth habit and continuous fruit setting throughout its active growth season. Scoville rating of 4,000 to 6,000.
Mucho Nacho . This jalapeño is a fat boy that is also fairly hot at 4,000 to 8,000 on the scoville scale. The peppers average about 4 inches long and considerably thicker than other jalapeños.
Has a robust flavor that is not drowned out by the heat. It starts as green and matures to red although it is commonly used green as it makes for an awesome stuffed pepper. Also suitable for any other recipes jalapenos are used for.
NuMex Pinata. Very colorful display of red, purple and orange peppers. Similar to pretty in purple peppers. Mild flavor 1,000 – 5,000 on the scoville scale.
Although it is a true jalapeño, it is very mild, almost sweet with very little capsicum content. 2.5 to 3 inches long by less than an inch in diameter. It has a very low capsicum content and a fruity flavor with citrus undertones. If left on the plant past their peak orange maturity they turn reddish and concentrate more sugars becoming sweeter. Scoville scale 2,000 to 5,000 but up to 8,000 under horticultural coaxing.
Mildly hot measuring around 5,000 on the scoville scale. Frequently grown as an ornamental although it is also valuable as an edible. 3 to 5 inch length 1 to 1.5 inch diameter.
Starts out green and gradually ripen to a vibrant purple, intermediate shades are colorful blends of purples and reds. These are considered a sweet chilli pepper and are best used fresh or pickled.
Tabasco pepper is a popular, moderately hot variety reaching 30 – 50,000 on the scoville scale. They are used fresh and in sauces such as tabasco sauce.
The plant tends to have a bushy growth habit. The peppers are tapered and roughly 1.5 to 2 inches long on average. Immature peppers are generally yellowish green and mature to hot yellows and shades of orange.
The TAM jalapeño is a super-mild version with a Scoville rating that does not get higher than 3,500 SHU and is typically much lower.
Planting Jalapeño Peppers
When to Plant
The peppers need warmth to germinate, so seeds should be planted in the garden after soil temperatures reach at least 65 degrees Fahrenheit. You also can start seeds indoors around eight to 10 weeks before your area's last projected frost date. Young plants can be transplanted into the garden once nighttime temperatures are reliably above 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Because peppers need warmth to germinate, most gardeners in colder climates with short seasons begin peppers from seed indoors or purchase transplants. Direct sowing seeds in the garden can be challenging.
Selecting a Planting Site
These plants need a sunny location to grow well and bear lots of fruit. They can grow in the ground or in containers. The soil should be organically rich and have sharp drainage. Try to keep your jalapeños away from other members of the nightshade (Solanaceae) family, including tomatoes, as they can transmit diseases to one another. Similar pests also can infest all members of the nightshade family.
Spacing, Depth, and Support
Space the plants about 14 to 16 inches apart, and leave about 2 to 3 feet between rows. Nursery plants should be situated at the same depth they were growing in their containers. Cover seeds with about 1/4 inch of soil. Jalapeños usually won't need a support structure, though some of the taller varieties might need stakes to prevent their fruits from weighing them down.
Growing Jalapeño Peppers
How to Grow Jalapeños From Seed
Start seeds indoors in a tray filled with moist seed-starting mix around eight to 10 weeks before your projected last frost date. Expose the tray to 16 hours of artificial light during the germination period, and make sure the soil remains between 65 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. A seedling heating mat can help control the temperature. Germination can take two to three weeks. Continue to keep the soil moist for the seedlings. When the seedlings have two sets of true leaves, pot up into a larger container with potting soil. Once they are 6 to 8 inches tall, they can be hardened off, gradually exposed to outdoor conditions, for two weeks and then planted in the garden.
How to Grow Jalapeños in Pots
Jalapeño peppers grow well in containers. A 3-gallon container is ideal, though they can survive in something smaller but will likely have a lower production. Be sure the container has ample drainage holes. An unglazed clay pot is ideal because it will allow excess soil moisture to escape through its walls. Use a quality potting mix that drains well, and situate the plant in your container at the same depth it was growing in its previous pot. Water after planting.
Container growth allows you to move your plants around to give them optimal sunlight. Plus, you can bring them indoors during cold weather to continue growing, provided that you can supply them with enough light. Because frequent watering of containers leeches nutrients from the soil, use a liquid fertilizer as directed to keep plants healthy and productive.
Jalapeño Pepper Care
Plant jalapeño peppers in full sun, meaning at least six hours of direct sunlight on most days. While they will tolerate a bit of shade, the plants will be spindly and the fruit production will diminish.
The ideal soil for jalapeño peppers is fertile, moist, and well-drained. A slightly acidic to neutral soil pH is best. The peppers don't do well in dense, soggy soil. If growing peppers in containers, any rich, general-purpose potting mix that drains well should be sufficient.
Unlike some other members of the nightshade family, jalapeño peppers need lots of water. Water them when the soil feels dry about an inch down, but don't allow the soil to become waterlogged. A thick layer of mulch will help to conserve soil moisture.
Temperature and Humidity
Jalapeños prefer temperatures between 65 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit at night. Colder temperatures, along with persistent temperatures above 90 degrees Fahrenheit, can cause the blossoms to drop and thus minimize fruiting. A moderate humidity level is ideal for these plants.
Peppers are heavy feeders. If you've amended the soil with good, rich compost, your plants should be happy and produce well. However, they will still benefit from additional side dressing of compost or a balanced fertilizer throughout the growing season for maximum productivity. Peppers growing in poor soil or in containers will benefit from an application of a balanced granular fertilizer or a layer of compost around the base of the plant as blossoms begin to form.
Jalapeño plants self-pollinate with the help of wind and pollinating animals, and they also can cross-pollinate with other pepper species. To aid in pollination, especially when growing your plant indoors away from pollinators, gently shake your plant every few days to distribute the pollen.
Harvesting Jalapeño Peppers
As they ripen, jalapeño peppers transform from light green to glossy dark green and then to red, orange, or yellow. For maximum heat, they should be harvested when they are full size (usually around 4 inches) and dark green—before they turn red/orange/yellow. If left on the plant to fully ripen, the peppers will be sweeter but still hot and tasty. Snip off the peppers with pruners, leaving a bit of stem on each fruit. Do not pull fruit off plants, as you may break fragile stems.
The peppers won't survive even a hint of frost. So if temperatures below 35 degrees Fahrenheit are predicted, you should harvest all remaining peppers and continue to ripen them indoors by placing them by a bright window. If you're growing in a container, you can move the entire container indoors to continue growing.
The peppers can be eaten fresh or cooked. Store them unwashed in a loosely covered container in the refrigerator, where they’ll stay fresh for around a week. You also can freeze peppers, as well as dry them, for later use.
Pruning and Propagating Jalapeño Peppers
Jalapeño plants generally won't need pruning. But if you see suckers popping up around the base of the plant, trim them off. This will allow the plant to put its energy into the main stems that will produce the most fruits.
Jalapeño plants are commonly grown from seeds or nursery plants. But they also can be propagated via cuttings. This is an inexpensive way to get a new plant, and it allows you to essentially clone a particular plant with especially good fruit production. The best time to take a cutting is in the early summer. Here’s how:
Cut a healthy piece of stem that’s between 4 to 6 inches long. Cut at a 45-degree angle just below a leaf node.
Remove any leaves on the lower half of the cutting. Also, remove any flowers or fruits.
Dip the cut end in a rooting hormone.
Plant the cutting in a moist soilless potting mix. Use a small container that has drainage holes.
Keep the cutting in a warm spot, roughly 70 degrees Fahrenheit, and put it in bright, indirect light.
Roots should form in about two weeks. Gently tug the stem; you’ll know roots have grown if there’s resistance. Then, the cutting is ready for transplanting.
If you wish to keep your jalapeño plant over the winter, pot it up in a container to bring indoors prior to any threat of frost in the forecast. Keep it by a bright window, preferably a south-facing one. And protect it from drafts, as well as dry air from heating vents. Water whenever the top inch of soil dries out. Pinch back the stems if the plant starts to get leggy due to lack of light.
Pests and Plant Diseases
Like most vegetables, jalapeño peppers are susceptible to a variety of insect pests and disease issues. Many of them are common to other members of the nightshade family. They include:
Aphids are one of the most common pepper pests. These tiny green or white insects suck the sap from the leaves, reducing the vigor of the plant and making it more susceptible to diseases. If possible, use a nontoxic control method, such as predatory insects like ladybugs or insecticidal soaps.
Cucumber beetle larvae can damage the roots of young plants. These small yellow-green beetles with black stripes eat holes in the leaves. Keeping the area free of weeds will help to eliminate the beetle breeding areas.
Pepper hornworms are greenish caterpillars that chew large holes in the leaves. The best remedy is to pick off the worms by hand.
Mites are nearly invisible insects that cause distortion or discoloration of the leaves. Affected plants should be removed and destroyed.
Fusarium wilt is a fungal disease that causes plants to weaken and turn yellow. Affected plants will need to be removed and destroyed. Keeping plants healthy and well-watered usually prevents this disease.
Anthracnose is another common fungal disease, creating dark sunken spots on the fruit. Remove and destroy affected plants, and make sure to buy resistant varieties when you next plant.
Benefits of Jalapeño Peppers
May help fight against cancer
Jalapenos are packed with vitamin C that are known to fight against free radicals, which are likely to trigger the development of cancer cells. The plant compound capsaicin, which is present in it, can kill certain types of cancer cells.
Aids in weight loss
If losing weight is your goal, then you should consume jalapenos regularly. That’s because they are low in calories and have properties, which can boost your metabolism by raising the core body temperature. Along with this, the heat of the pepper can curb your appetite.
Helps to relieve pain
The heat released by jalapenos is a natural pain reliever. This can temporarily block pain receptors, and help you relax. But remember, it isn’t a great idea to apply jalapeno peppers directly on the skin.
Helps to keep heart health in check
High blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, and diabetes are major risk factors of heart disease. But this chili pepper contains high flavonoids, vitamin C, A, and capsaicin, which is likely to help in the prevention of heart diseases and other risk factors.
Jalapenos can slow down the growth of bacteria and infections like strep throat and tooth decay, because it contains antimicrobial and antibacterial properties. Also, capsaicin is considered an anti-inflammatory, thereby helping to prevent bacterial growth.
Promotes immune system
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that is considered to stimulate the immune system. The antioxidant properties can boost immunity by strengthening your body’s natural defenses, thereby encouraging the production of white blood cells that helps the body fight all kinds of illnesses.
Vitamin A is crucial for eye health; yes, it plays an important role in ensuring good vision. In fact, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, a deficiency in vitamin A can lead to night blindness.
Remedies Stomach Ulcers
Stomach ulcer is a common health condition that affects most people and caused due to the growth of H. Pylori bacteria, increased acid secretion, improper blood flow, stress, excessive alcohol consumption and smoking. Intake of spicy foods like jalapenos are known to worsen stomach ulcers, however, studies have proven this to be false. The fact is capsaicin in pepper may shield the stomach from developing ulcers and reducing stomach inflammation.
Stuffed jalapeños are hollowed-out fresh jalapeños (served cooked or raw) filled with seafood, meat, poultry, or cheese.
Pickled jalapeños, a type of pickled pepper, sliced or whole, are often served hot or cold on top of nachos, which are tortilla chips with melted cheese on top, a Tex-Mex dish.
Chipotles are smoked ripe jalapeños.
Jalapeño jelly, which is a pepper jelly, can be prepared using jelling methods.
Jalapeño peppers are often muddled and served in mixed drinks.
Jalapeño poppers are an appetizer; jalapeños are stuffed with cheese, usually cheddar or cream cheese, breaded or wrapped in bacon, and cooked.
Armadillo eggs are jalapeños or similar chilis stuffed with cheese, coated in seasoned sausage meat and wrapped in bacon. The "eggs" are then grilled until the bacon starts to crisp.
Chiles toreados are fresh jalapeños that are sauteed in oil until the skin is blistered all over. They are sometimes served with melted cheese on top.
Texas toothpicks are jalapeños and onions shaved into straws, lightly breaded, and deep-fried.
Chopped jalapeños are a common ingredient in many salsas and chilis.
Jalapeño slices are commonly served in Vietnamese pho and bánh mì, and are also a common sandwich and pizza topping in the West.
In Mexico, jalapeños are used in many forms such as in salsa, pico de gallo, or grilled jalapeños.