This Week’s Harvest: Jalapenos

by Daisy Luther

If you like spicy food, then you are probably a fan of the jalapeno pepper. They are moderately spicy, with a Scoville heat rating of 2,500–10,000. Right now, the garden is just beginning to bring forth these shiny, dark green peppers. If you don’t have a garden, you can find heaping baskets full of them at your local farmer’s market. (Find a local farmer’s market HERE).

 As jalapenos sit on the vine, they ripen to a deep red. They are milder when green and intensify in heat as they turn a darker red.

Jalapeno trivia: The jalapeno pepper is named for the Mexican town in which it was traditionally grown, Xalapa, Veracruz. A member of the chili pepper family, the jalapeno was used by the Aztecs, who smoked the jalapenos in order to preserve them.

Nutritional benefits

Jalapenos have a host of health benefits at a very low caloric cost.

  • One jalapeno pepper contains a negligible 4 calories and less than one gram of carbs.
  • Jalapeno peppers are very high in Vitamins A and C – just one little pepper contains 20% of the RDA of both vitamins!
  • Capsaicin, the substance that gives the peppers their heat, has the following properties: anti-inflammatory, vasodilator (improves blood flow and circulation), and metabolic booster.
  • Capsaicin also shows promise in cancer treatment. One study showed that the substance “turns off “NF-kB, a protein that promotes tumor growth.
  • Because of their inflammation reducing properties, jalapenos are an excellent addition to the diet of anyone who suffers from gout or arthritis.

Growing Jalapeno Peppers

Jalapeno plants can be easily grown from seeds. Start the seeds indoors and transplant when the seedling have 4 leaves and when all threat of frost has passed. Use an organic compost to create a rich soil and plant them in full sun.

Using Fresh Jalapenos

WARNING: Hot peppers are the evil vindictive uncles of the vegetable garden family. Handle them with care because when you cut them up, they fight back. Use rubber gloves and do not rub your eyes, nose, mouth or any other mucous membrane (that I don’t want to hear about) after handling them.

Most of the heat is in the seeds. Use or do not use the seeds accordingly to turn up (or down) the heat in your finished product.

If you do happen to get the juice or seeds on your skin (owie!) and you’re still having issues after washing the area, sometimes a milk compress can provide some relief – generally, though, you just have to wait it out.

Holy Jalapeno Relish

My absolute favorite use of jalapeno peppers is this relish. Because I like spicy foods a lot more than the rest of the members of my household, this condiment is a great spice-your-own topping for chili or Mexican food, or for stirring into a mild, family-friendly salsa.

The following photos show how to make half a pint of jalapeno relish. The canning version of this recipe can be found below.

1. Wash your freshly picked jalapenos.

2. Cut off the stems, then cut the peppers in half.

3. (Optional) Wash a handful of cilantro leaves (amount to taste) and add them to the bowl of the food processor.

4. Add 1/4 cup of white vinegar and 2-3 teaspoons of sugar to the bowl of the food processor

Step 5: Using the pulse function, puree the mixture until it reaches a chunky consistency similar to that of hamburger relish.

Using a funnel, put your beautiful, bright green jalapeno relish into a jar. This will stay good in your refrigerator for 2-4 weeks (if it lasts that long – you may find that you make foods specifically in order to top them with yummy jalapeno relish.)


Preserving Jalapenos

Freezing

When freezing jalapeno peppers, use your food processor to puree them. Freeze the puree in ice cube trays until they are solid, then transfer the cubes into a large Ziploc bag.

Drying

Drying jalapeno peppers is not recommended. They have a thicker flesh than other types of chile peppers and will often rot before they dry. If you wish to use your dehydrator to dry the peppers, use a piece of waxed paper on the trays to catch the seeds. Slice them into very thin rings. Alternatively, puree them and leave them overnight in a mesh colander over a bowl in the refrigerator, then spread this thinly over the waxed paper.

Canning

Holy Jalapeno Relish (canning version)

Ingredients:

  • 5 pounds of jalapeno peppers
  • 2 cups of sugar (white sugar or turbinado)
  • 4 cups of white vinegar
  • ½ cup of cilantro leaves (optional)

(Another option, if you want a condiment with less heat, is to replace up to half of the jalapenos with green bell peppers.)

Directions:

  1. In a food processor, finely chop the peppers. Don’t turn them into a pureed mush – make them the consistency of relish.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large cooking pot, stir the sugar into the vinegar and bring to a boil.
  3. Immediately reduce the heat and stir in your hot peppers.
  4. Use your food processor to chop the cilantro leaves, if you are using them, then stir them into your relish. (Be sure to use the leaves only – the stems are bitter and unpleasant.)
  5. Bring the relish back to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes until heated through.
  6. Ladle the relish into sanitized pint jars allowing ½ inch of head space.
  7. Process the jars in a water bath canner for 10 minutes. Be sure to adjust for altitude.

Pickled Jalapenos

These aren’t even vaguely similar to the dull, washed out looking grocery store versions!

  • 5 pounds of jalapeno peppers
  • 4 tbsp of coarse non-iodized salt
  • 4 cups of white vinegar
  • 1 cup of distilled water
  • (optional) thinly sliced onion or crushed garlic

Directions:

  1. Taking care to protect your skin with gloves, thinly slice your washed jalapenos into rings.
  2. Meanwhile, in a stockpot, bring the vinegar, water, and salt to a boil.
  3. If using, divide your onion and/or garlic across your warm, sanitized pint jars .
  4. Fill the (still warm) jars with jalapeno slices, packing them tightly.
  5. Pour the boiling liquid over the jalapenos, allowing 1 inch of headspace.
  6. Process the jars in a water bath canner for 10 minutes. Be sure to adjust for altitude.

Daisy Luther is a freelance writer and editor. Her website, The Organic Prepper, offers information on healthy prepping, including premium nutritional choices, general wellness and non-tech solutions. You can follow Daisy on Facebook and Twitter, and you can email her at [email protected]

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