by Matt Gibson
In Mexico alone, more than 40,000 acres of land are used solely for the cultivation of jalapenos, which are a staple of the nation’s cuisine. And when it comes to flavor, jalapeños are one of the best options for chefs and food lovers—so it’s no wonder gardeners and commercial growers love them.
Coming in at anywhere between 2,500 and 10,000 Scoville units, which measure the intensity of the spicy heat of some foods, the jalapeno is nowhere near as hot as the world’s hottest peppers. Some of those can reach 300,000 Scoville units, but the jalapeño still brings the heat and is considered a mild to moderately spicy pepper. Jalapenos that are on the higher side of that heat range have been known to bring a tear to a grown man’s eye in restaurants and home kitchens around the world.
In terms of nutrition, the jalapeno is a great source of vitamin A, B1, B2, B3, B6, C and K. The fiery pepper is also nutritionally valuable because it’s full of dietary fiber, potassium, copper, manganese, iron, and phosphorus. Its nutrient density rating clocks in quite high, at 10.5 on a scale where anything above one rates as a nutrient-rich food. Although the peppers are certainly chock-full of lots of nutritious stuff, you might want to avoid overindulgence, as they are also very high in natural sugars.
Still, the jalapeno is a great way to spice up a meal, and it’s very simple to grow them yourself, especially if you live in a hot, dry area. Growing jalapenos indoors is also quite a simple process—as long as you use a nutrient-rich soil while providing lots of sunlight and water. Here’s all you need to know in order to become a pro at growing and harvesting your own jalapeno peppers.
Growing Conditions For Jalapenos
Jalapenos need heat to thrive and require a temperature of at least 65 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit in order to germinate. The element of heat is the most critical component of creating the perfect environment for growing jalapenos. If the temperature is not warm enough, the seedlings will not sprout, or your transplants will not make it long once outside. However, if the temperature in your area is consistently over 90 degrees Fahrenheit, your pepper plants will flourish, and you will have an abundance of growth. Also, the hotter the temperature, the hotter the batch of Jalapenos tends to be, so keep your climate in mind when deciding how many to add to a recipe.
How To Plant Jalapenos
Start your jalapeno seeds indoors, in pots or a propagator, around six weeks before the last frost experts are predicting for your area this year. Depending on your location, this interval should fall anywhere from January to March.
Fill containers three quarters of the way with a seed-starting mix, and toss in one to three seeds, then cover the seeds with a small layer of soil. To avoid fungus and rot, make sure there is plenty of aeration.
It should take three to five weeks for germination to begin. Use larger pots to replant your seedlings after they are at least two inches tall or have four or more leaves. Toughen your seedlings up to prepare them for the wind they’ll encounter outdoors by putt them in the way of a fan that will blow them around a bit. Keep them indoors for two more weeks before moving them outside.
When you make the move, place your plants in two- to five-gallon pots or directly into the ground, about 16 to 18 inches away from each other. Make sure to plant your jalapeños in a location that will get a minimum of six hours of direct sunlight per day.
Care of Jalapenos
Fertilize the plants each week during the early stages of development and each month thereafter. Jalapenos like a soil that is high in sand and rich in organic materials. About an inch of water is needed each week to keep the plants properly hydrated, but make sure there is ample drainage in the pepper garden. Waterlogged soil will damage your plants.
Garden Pests and Diseases of Jalapenos
Plant your peppers and potatoes at the far ends of your vegetable garden, far away from each other’s reach. You’ll want to do this because potato bugs are fond of alternating between potato plants and jalapenos for a bit of variety in their diet.
Other pests that commonly plague jalapeños include the pepper weevil, aphids, flea beetles, worms, and caterpillars. Spray the pepper plants down with neem oil to get rid of most pests, and check the plants daily to pull off any worms or caterpillars that happen to be dining on your precious peppers.
Carefully pinch the peppers off the vine at the stem when they are solid-colored and firm, but do it before they change color. They will stay fresh for three to five weeks if stored at a temperature of 45 degrees Fahrenheit. The peppers themselves should be about two and a half to three inches long when they are ready to be plucked off the vine.
Other Hot Pepper Varieties to Grow in Your Home Garden
Try adding a few other hot peppers to your garden so that you will have a variety of options to spice up your meal right out of your garden! The cayenne pepper is also easy to grow in warm climates and of many uses in the kitchen. You may also consider planting habanero peppers, serrano peppers, tabasco peppers, or even ghost peppers (if you think you have what it takes to eat them, that is).
Why jalapenos? Well, if you can stand moderate heat, the flavor really goes well with a lot of different dishes. The ubiquitous taste of chipotle is simply that of smoke-dried jalapeño, for example. Many different types of food call for a little extra kick, and though jalapeños are not nearly the hottest pepper in the world, they are plenty hot enough for most spicy food lovers. Jalapenos are great to stuff for parties, or as an ingredient in a homemade salsa that you could give away jars of as gifts. There are plenty of reasons to grow them, especially now that you have the know-how.
Want to learn more about growing jalapenos?
Calorie Lab covers Jalapeno Pepper Nutrition
Gardening Know How covers Growing Jalapeno Peppers
Grow Hot Peppers covers Growing Jalapeno Basics
Mobile Cuisine covers Jalapenos Fun Facts
Vegetable Gardening Online covers Growing Jalapeno Peppers