Peppers are recorded as cultivated in Bolivia and Meso-America ca. 16th century. Christopher Columbus recorded the use of “a vegetable called agi´ …employed to give a sharp taste to the fish and such birds as they can catch…” (ca.1494). Jalapeño is a medium-hot pepper originating in the region of Jalapa, Veracruz in Mexico. Some cultivars listed include: ‘Fresno’, ‘Jalapeño Frienza’, ‘Jalapeño TAM’, ‘Jaloro’, ‘Pizza Pepper’, ‘Caribe’, ‘Paul’s Piñata’, and ‘Señorita Hybrid’. Pepper colors vary from yellow to red to brown to purple.
Possibly the best-known of the “hot” peppers, Jalapeño is prepared and eaten in a number or ways. They may be eaten fresh, green, red, pickled, fully ripened , roasted or grilled (then called chipotle or chile huauchinango). They are standard garnish for submarine sandwiches and pizzas, and are a basic ingredient in “salsa”. The fresh, green leaves are also eaten as “greens”.
Peppers require a long hot season and regular watering for growth. Day temperatures should be 23-32º C (75-90º F). Peppers do not perform well in compacted, poorly-drained or weedy soil. They respond well to mulches, whether of leaves, compost or plastic. They grow well in raised beds and in containers. If seeds don’t germinate well, soak them overnight in a solution of Potassium Nitrate (KNO3; also known as saltpeter or niter) 1 tsp per liter of water, before planting to break dormancy. KNO3 can be found where fertilizers are sold.
Harvesting and Seed Production
Jalapeños are red when mature, often with netted markings. The fruit may be eaten at any stage of development, although it is normally eaten when dark green. If seed is to be saved, Capsicum annuum varieties should not be planted in the same garden, since they will cross-pollinate each other. (e.g. Jalapeño x Sweet Bell) To collect seeds, cut mature, red fruits from the plant when firm and glossy. Remove seeds, rinse them in mild vinegar or bleach solutions to discourage seed-born pests and diseases. Dry the seeds in a dark, airy place. Store below 40º F (4.4º C), at the lowest possible humidity. In closed containers, pepper seeds can remain viable for 5 years.
Pests and Diseases
Peppers should be rotated seasonally and should not follow another solanaceous crop (i.e. tomatoes, potatoes, or eggplant) because the pests and diseases that affect this family often remain in the soil year after year. If aphids are a problem, check the undersides of the leaves, growing branch tips and the presence of sticky "honeydew" on the lower leaves and fruit. Use a soapy water spray or apply a suggested insecticide. Plant varieties that are resistant to tobacco mosaic disease and wash hands thoroughly before and after handling pepper plants to prevent the spread of the virus.
Cooking and Nutrition
Jalapeños do dry, but are usually eaten fresh or processed. When ripe, peppers have the highest vitamin A content of any vegetable and and higher vitamin C than an equivalent amount of citrus. Peppers are also a good source of vitamin E. Pepper’s “heat” is rated by the capsaicin content using “Scoville Units” to compare them. Habanero rates 100-400,000, Thai Bird Pepper 70-80,000, Tabasco 30-50,000, and Jalapeño 5-15,000.