Jalapeño peppers. The always reliable source of flavor and spice for anyone looking to add a little fire to their fiesta.
Of course you’ve tried them, everyone has. From tacos to phó they can compliment just about any cuisine.
But how much do you actually know about these piquant peppers? Where do they come from? How do you serve them? How do you grow them? And most importantly, are they good for you? Let’s find out.
What Are Jalapeño peppers?
Along with eggplants, tomatoes, and potatoes Jalapeños are a member of the Solanaceae family (or nightshade). A mature jalapeño chili is 5–10 cm long and hangs down with a round, firm, smooth flesh of 25–38 mm wide. While they
are commonly picked and consumed while still green, it is possible to find red, orange, or yellow jalapeños.
Evidence of the earliest cultivation can be traced to the Mexican state of Veracruz. The name jalapeño comes from Xalapa, the capital city.
How spicy are they?
Most commonly associated with Mexican cuisine, they fall between poblanos and habaneros on the heat index, and are typically among the least expensive of the
fresh peppers at the grocery store.
Just like ghost and serrano peppers, they get their heat from capsaicin, a chemical compound concentrated in the white pithy ribs of a pepper. Like most hot peppers, jalapeños vary in spiciness based on many growing factors, including the amount of sunlight and the pH level of the soil. Jalapeño peppers fall somewhere between 2,500 and 8,000 Scoville heat units on the Scoville scale.
Are Jalapeños healthy?
Like most fruits and vegetables, jalapeño peppers are a good source of fiber. One pepper provides 2% of the daily recommending intake (RDI) for a person consuming 2,000 calories per day.
- Calories: 4
- Fiber: 0.4 grams
- Vitamin C: 10% of the RDI
- Vitamin B6: 4% of the RDI
- Manganese: 2% of the RDI
- Vitamin A: 2% of the RDI
- Folate: 2% of the RDI
- Vitamin K: 2% of the RDI
Vitamin C is an antioxidant that fights free radical damage and keeps your skin healthy and firm, while vitamin B6 is an essential nutrient involved in over 140 bodily reactions.
One of the most unique compounds in jalapeños is capsaicin, an alkaloid that gives peppers their characteristic spicy quality and is responsible for many of their health benefits.
Jalapeños may contribute to longer life
A recent study shows that people who ate hot peppers several times a week were 13% less likely to die during the 19-year study than those who ate few to no peppers. Researchers believe that this may be linked to capsaicin’s role in promoting blood flow and preventing obesity.
As indicated in a previous post, capsaicin is a natural pain reliever. It contains anti-inflammatory properties which can alleviate muscle sprains and strains, headaches, and joint conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.
If you really want to experience pain-relieving effects of capsaicin, you’ll need to use creams, ointments, or patches that have the stuff. You might use capsaicin if you’re hurting from arthritis, sore muscles, and nerve trouble.
Jalapeños may Fight Cancer
Many studies indicate that capsaicin contains powerful anti-cancer properties, capable of killing more than 40 types of cancer cells.
Capsaicin fights cancer by:
- Halting the division and growth of cancerous cells
- Delaying the formation of new blood vessels around cancer tumors
- Preventing the spread of cancer to other areas of the body
Weight Loss and Blood Sugar Control
You may have heard that spicy food helps you drop extra pounds. While losing weight is obviously going to require more effort than eating peppers, studies show that eating them regularly can speed up metabolism, help burn fat, and curb your appetite.
Eating chili peppers before a high-carb meal may also help prevent blood sugar spikes.
Jalapeño fun facts
- The jalapeño is the state pepper of Texas.
- You can smoke them. Their use dates back thousands of years, including the practice of smoking some varieties of peppers in order to preserve them.
- Jalapeños were included as food on the Space Shuttle as early as 1982.
- Joaquín Guzmán “El Chapo” leader of the Sinaloa Cartel operated a cannery in Guadalajara producing “Comadre Jalapeños” in order to ship cocaine to the US.
- Lastly, jalapeños were in use by the Aztecs prior to the Spanish conquest; Bernardino de Sahagún in the Florentine Codex writes of Aztec markets selling chipotles (smoked jalapeños), mole made from chipotles, besides the sale of fresh chilies.
How about a Jalapeño Hot Sauce?
Chicago Hot Sauce is a spiced up blend of some of the second city’s most defining flavors: yellow mustard, dill pickles, spicy relish and celery salt.
A fusion of zest from the great Midwest, this jalapeño-based sauce will add the perfect touch of heat to your next hot dog or hamburger.
Made from produce grown by our tireless garden partners — FarmWorks Heartland Alliance, LVJEO Community Garden, Big Green, and Catatumbo Cooperative Farm — this sauce is possible thanks to the same sweat and soil that makes Chicago roar.
Small Axe’s Chicago Hot Sauce even earned the approval of Sean Evans — native Chicagoan and host of Hot Ones — when it was recently featured on season 10 of his web series.