Not as hot as you might think…
Even those relatively new to hot peppers know of jalapeño peppers, but what’s interesting is the overall reputation this hot pepper has. Many people think of the jalapeño as a very spicy hot pepper, but in terms of the Scoville scale, the jalapeño is merely mild to moderate. It has a Scoville heat unit range of 2,500 to 8,000 SHU. That’s mighty low compared to the hottest peppers in the world, some of which top the 1,000,000 SHU mark on the pepper scale.
But most of those hotter peppers never find their way to normal grocery store shelves. There, the jalapeño is king, and its spiciness is far more than the traditional bell and red peppers you find right next to them.
How spicy are jalapeño peppers?
The jalapeño is pretty much the perfect amount of heat for those that like a little kick, but don’t want to challenge their taste buds to a duel. Most people can enjoy a jalapeño. It’s one of the great culinary peppers in the world, finding its way into Tex-Mex dishes, Thai recipes, Spanish foods, and much more. This is truly a pepper that’s found its niche, and it’s got big time fans all over the world.
What do jalapeño peppers look like?
At 2 to 3.5 inches in total length, this is as pod-like a pepper as you’ll ever see. Compared to other hot peppers, it’s moderate in total size. Some are stouter and some are longer. Jalapeños are typically picked (and eaten) while they are still green in color and not totally ripe. Though, there are those that prefer a totally ripened red jalapeño pepper. Red jalapeños are just fine to eat, but most people go for the green. The heat comes from the capsaicin found in the pepper, particularly in the membrane that you’ll see around the seeds when you cut one open.
Where do jalapeño peppers come from?
The pepper originated in − you guessed it − Mexico. Over 160 square kilometers of land are still dedicated to the growing of jalapeños in the country. It’s also grown in the United States, particularly the southwestern states of Texas and New Mexico, which of course border Mexico. The cultivation of jalapeño peppers in the United States is definitely not at the same scope as in Mexico though; only about 22 square kilometers are dedicated to growing jalapeño peppers in total in the U.S.
The name comes from a town in Mexico near where it is cultivated most often: Xalapa, Veracruz. Xalapa has a variant spelling jalapa that cues your more in on the origin of the name. In Mexico, this most famous of all peppers actually goes by a few different monikers, including chiles gordos, huachinangos, and cuaresmeños.
Where can you buy jalapeño peppers?
Jalapeños can be found nearly everywhere. Whatever you call jalapeño peppers, they are good spicy eating and a global food rock star. Use them raw in dishes, pick up a chipotle rub (chipotle pepper is a smoke-dried jalapeño), or grab one of the many jalapeño hot sauces out there to add some fire to your menu. In fact Sriracha sauce, one of the most famous hot sauce in the world, is made from red jalapeño peppers. The jalapeño is a great hot pepper to master before moving up to the hotter reaches of the Scoville scale.