Don’t Ignore Jalapeño Peppers

Jalapeño is a medium-sized chili pepper. Most jalapeños are produced in southern New Mexico and western Texas. The growing period is 70–80 days in hot weather. When mature, the plant is about two to three feet tall. Typically, a jalapeño plant produces about 25 to 35 pods. During a growing period, a plant will be picked multiple times. As the growing season ends, jalapeños start to turn red, which have less flavor. Green jalapeño peppers have a lot of tiny lines on the surface when they are extremely hot and ready for picking.

A mature jalapeño fruit is about 2 to 3½ inches long and is commonly picked and consumed while still green. Once picked, individual peppers may turn red on their own. The flesh has a mild flavor close to a green bell pepper. The heat is concentrated in the membrane surrounding the seeds, which give the spicy flavor we all love.

When preparing jalapeños, don’t rub your hands on the eyes. Capsaicin, the chemical in jalapeños that makes them hot, can cause painful burning and redness. Fresh cut jalapeños can give your hands a burning sensation for hours. I found that out myself.

Jalapeño peppers can be used green or red in Mexican and American cooking. Chipotles are smoked, ripe jalapeños, a Mexican favorite.

I have only discovered jalapeño in Chinese cooking recently when I needed some chili peppers to make black bean garlic ribs (豉汁排骨). The results were wonderful. Four pounds of baby back ribs disappeared quickly. Wow, I can think of many ways to use jalapeño in my cooking. Oh, yes, I will definitely grow jalapeño peppers in my vegetable garden next year.


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