Heat in peppers is from an oil. The Thai swear by anything that will absorb oil to remove chilie heat. If your mouth is too hot for you, stick a ball of plain rice in there and suck on it…. very soon the fire will subside. For hands, the idea of salt makes sense as it is hydroscopic. I use a bit of salt and some dish-soap in the palm of my hand, rub it around and wait for a minute and rinse it off. If you have a baby though, or just want to avoid this problem altogether, wear a pair of surgical gloves. Nitrile ones are non-allergenic. :) Happy chilie eating!
If you do touch your eyes after touching the jalapeno, use a clean ice cub to rub over your eye with your lid closed. Regular water, or eyewater (Visine) will not do the trick. Just rub your eye(s) with the ice cube, head tilted back, so that as much of the cool water will run into your eye and soothe it.
Being a hot pepper aficionado and a grower of jalapenos, japanese hot peppers and habaneros I can attest to the fact that the striations along the body of the pepper definetly affect and warn you about the amount of heat within!!
The Pioneer Woman goes by the above theory. I purchased some peppers recently at the Farmers Market and it was true.
My freind says if you hollow out a jalopena and take out the seeds and veins it leaves the pepper with no heat. I have never heard this and don’t believe itCan someone help
Hi Will, it depends on the individual jalapeño. In my experience most jalapeño peppers are still very hot, even the flesh, though most of the heat can be found concentrated around the veins and the seeds. Some jalapeños are so mild that the flesh isn’t hot at all, but most of the peppers I’ve tried are hot enough.
If you want as little heat as possible, select jalapenos with more rounded ends… more pointed have more heat… Remove all seeds and ribs… soak in cold water… the longer you soak, the less heat… My brother can’t tolerate any heat, whatsoever. I used this technique, soaking for 3 to 4 hours, to make Jalapeño Poppers that he not only ate and loved, but he ate all the leftovers over the next couple of days! Mom could not believe he ate and loved jalapenos.
Yes it’s true. I eat them daily in scrambled eggs and on turkey or roast beef sandwiches. Remove the seeds and membrane removes almost all of the heat.
I googled this and there doesn’t seem to be a true consensus. For as many people that look for the brown lines, there are just as many that say it ain’t so.A few people suggested substituting serranos for jalapenos. They say they are hotter and taste better.In Mexico, it seems like they always dry their peppers. I have a big bag of dried chilis. I think they are anchos. They are hot enough for me. I ground up a bunch and use them in place of the usual red chili flakes.
I’ve found heating them up also increases how hot they are,,, I used a grill and let them sit inside for maybe 2 1/2 minutes before doing anything with them. Before I tried the grill, I took a bite, tasted like a green pepper no heat what so ever, after. It was pretty hot. ( after it cooled )
Thanks for the reply,I have been eating raw Jalepenos and Fresnos salted,stuffed with Cheddar Cheese very tasty and just about my tolerance level,I have Cayenne and Cherry Peppers but I use these sparingly.Next project is to stuff the Jalos with Cheese,roll in beaten Egg then Breadcrumbs and roast them in a drizle of Extra Virgin.A question,is it possibly to keep the plants over winter or is it better to raise fresh plants next year.I planted my surplus plants outdoors and these are also bearing fruit.I have been reading about the Trinidad Scorpion Pepper but I think I will give them a pass.
My golly, your chili pepper ideas are mouthwatering. Now I cannot wait for my jalapeños to reach their full size. The first one, about more than a week old, is about 2 inches long and an inch in diameter – and still growing! Pointy tips mean no picking.
Since you cannot use the seeds for planting and get the very same harvest, I would suggest overwintering. Other than that, seeds take forever to germinate in cold temperatures, so you will be having double doses of frustration if your seeds fail to germinate, or if you planted the seeds too late. You have to prune your peppers down to six – eight inches, making sure to cut down to the 1/4 inch above the nodes rather than at the middle of the stems. Nodes will be the junction between the leaves and stems of your peppers, and cutting way above the nodes will only promote dryness as well as susceptibility to disease.
If your peppers are in containers, you are in luck because you can bring them inside your home and place them by the window sill for sunlight. Or you can buy some overhead garden lamps that you can time to be on up to 16 hours a day. If you have planted them outside in a yard, prune, mulch heavily, and use cold frames to protect them from frost. Just make sure to open up the lid for a couple of minutes each day about an inch or so to help circulate air. You don’t want fungus to grow on your peppers.
You may have a problem with your jalapeños for overwintering. These chili peppers just love the heat, and very, very sensitive to weather changes. If you can buy a fresh packet of seeds, then get started on germination 12 weeks before the last frost on your area. If you plan to overwinter your jalapeños, place them in the most comfortable room in your house in terms of warmth. If you are comfortable in that room because of the warmth even without the heater on, your jalapeños may stand a chance.
Just remember to keep the soil moist (not wet!) throughout the winter. Your plants will go on dormant stage, so do not worry too much if you do not see flowers growing and all that. Come spring, you will be surprised. Remember to harden them off first before putting them outside once winter is done, though. You don’t want your overwintering efforts become wasted.
Good luck! Hope your peppers will survive through the winter!
This year I decided to grow Jalapenos,i have a bumper crop and will pickle some.I have noticed that Jalapeno fruit hang downwards and Fresno fruit grow upwards.Both seem to have the same heat,the Jalos darker green than the fresnos.My question is with both being in close proximity along with Habaneros,Cayenne and Red Cherry Peppers will this cause cross pollination and alter the true plant when I collect the seeds for next years plants. regards.
Great question. I don’t know. You might want to consult a grower.
Hi, Colin. Yes, there is a possibility of cross pollination from your three peppers, so you may be getring a hybrid of sorts if you plant the seeds that came from your harvest. Someone made some sort of chart for the possibility of cross pollination in gardenweb’s forum, but I can’t find it anymore, sorry.
The “stretch marks” are actually similar to papalo’s holey leaves. Papalo has small holes in it when the leaves are matured which look like insects have been feeding off of it. They are not insect holes though, they are actually oil glands. So, essentially the stretch marks/striations are where the oil is being released.Thought they may not be glands on the pepper plant, watch a pepper closely on a hot day.
It has been my garden experience that a stressed plant puts out a hot pepper. It makes sense. stressed plants are protecting themselves from being eaten. They make more capsaicin. Also its the fleshy veins inside that are hot. I always take a tiny bite of each one, then add more or less of them as the case may be. HTH
Brilliant answer, best on the net (most others seem to use it as an excuse to rant about mildness being bred into the chillis) because it is so practicable and with good images. And I am going to see if the Cayenne and Bulgarian Carrot Chillis I am growing follow the same guidelines. Thanks Elise
Thanks for the article. I’ve read that the striations are also called corking.
I found this article in an attempt to figure out why my homegrown (actually my office grown) peppers aren’t so hot anymore. I’ve had my plants for three summers, having grown them from seeds in a window box in a south facing window (important in Alaska!) Even the heavily corked red peppers have next to no heat. As the plants have aged, the heat level seems to be more and more dependent on sunlight, though there is an occasional hot one.
An older Mexican man in a grocery store told me about striations way back in the day. I was forever grateful!
For Katie: rubbing your hands in salt will take care of the heat. It’s a trick I stumbled on (I figured if it works to cool down hot salsa on chips–by sprinkling salt on the chips–it might work on hands!). The saline (salty water) solution destroys heat.
Hello – I have chopped some jalapenos (without gloves) and have washed my hands several times however my fingers are still “spicy”. Is there a way to get rid of that. I have a new baby and do not want to transfer that over to his skin. Thanks!
Good question. The spiciness in jalapenos comes from a chemical that is oil based, so you might try rubbing your hands with an oil-based lotion, or even vegetable oil. ~Elise
Thanks for this, I used to wonder about the striations. This summer we have our own peppers, chili and jalapeno plants in the garden and I have a (I guess stupid) question. On one plant we have red and green ones, some are just green, will they all turn red after green? We never tried it before because we thought that you can’t grow them in Germany because our summers aren’t long and hot. It does work though and we’re really proud.
Yes, they will all turn red if you leave them on the plant long enough. ~Elise
O.K. The proof is definitely in the pepper. I have now picked and ate (yeah) younger, smaller peppers that were on the same plant that produced the heavily marked peppers that were too hot to eat before. Same soil, same growing conditions. I am so happy to have this knowledge now! I will be picking sooner and be able to judge purchased peppers so much better now. Thank you so much again Elise!
Elise, this is a wonderful tip. And, based on Brandon’s research, it looks like this would apply to poblano peppers as well. Thanks Brandon for doing that research!
My husband was buying jalapenos to add to a pot of pinto beans. He noticed an elderly man choosing the ones with the most striations. Hubby asked why and the gentleman told him the more striations the hotter the pepper. My husband used that method and put the usual amount in the beans. The beans were about triple the heat than normal. We couldn’t eat them. We regularly eat very hot and spicy food. Word to the wise…in cooking use less of the striated peppers.
From a paper on Padrón Chili peppers: Capsaicinoids were detected 14 days after flowering in the first stage. Their levels remained low for 21 days, but 28 days after flowering capsaicinoids increased moderately, and finally, at the end of development, the cv. Padrón pepper exhibited a dramatic increase in capsaicinoid levels with the highest values found in the fifth stage, 42 days after flowering. The level of capsacinoids in the cultivar Padrón was lower than that in other fruit varieties (Iwai et al., 1979; Salgado-Garciglia & Ochoa-Alejo, 1990). -Estrada et al. 2000, J. Agric Food Chem.
It’s not Jalapeño, but the fact that 4 other cultivars had similar capsaicinoid production patterns suggests that they do get hotter towards maturation.
The striations that you photographed are actually cracks in the skin of the fruit that develop when there is excess root pressure to where the skin cannot push back. Usually fruit (of any kind) are more susceptible to this sort of cracking when they are more mature (Tomatoes, melons, etc…). As the fruit expands and matures, the skin is stretched thinner and thinner and the fruit wall begins to soften and together cannot push back against the pressure from the roots. Tiny fractures occur in the skin to relieve the pressure which then become suberized and more visible.
If anything, the fractures indicate maturity, which does appear to correlate with increased capsaicinoid content.
Also, as many people mentioned, there is strong evidence in the literature that increased stress on the plant will induced increased production of capsaicinoids. Letting them wilt, flooding the roots, handling the plants, increased soil temperatures, and increased air temperatures will all stress out the plant more and cause increased production.
Your method may not be perfect Elise, but there is scientific precedence to back of some of your ideas.
Your comment about the effects of stressing the plants is well-taken. I live in southern New Mexico, where growing chiles is near-religion status. Because irrigating is the way the plants receive their water, and because of the high temperatures, the farmers generally can put as much or as little stress as the choose.
Actually what makes a pepper hotter has been studied. Capsaicin is produced by the plant in defense of either bugs, animals or mold. So if you want your peppers to be hotter plant them and mist them with water in the evenings.
Now birds are not effected by capsaicin so they can eat the peppers and then disperse the seeds else ware..
The soil in which the chile is grown is pre-eminent. If you want really hot chiles then grow them hydroponically. That in itself will increase the capsacin by about 10 fold in what ever chile you decide to grow.
I’ve heard that this is a bit of an old wives tale. There is no capsaicin in the skin, only in the membrane that connects the seed to the ribs. The stirations are from stress and age and can be an indication of heat, but they do not signify heat alone.
Me thinks that the milder strains are simply becoming more common with supply chains, but thats just a theory.
Many years ago we found out that there is a great way to control the heat of your peppers if you are growing your own.
For mild peppers: water regularly, neve let them get too dry. Happy peppers seem to grow up much to be much milder in heat.
For HOT peppers: abuse your pepper plants. Wait until they are wilted to water them, don’t let them die (no way to bring them bck from the grave), but abuse the plants. It just seems to make the peppers mean.
Also, for all varieties of peppers (including bell peppers) they are really ripe when they are red. Peppers picked green are immature.
This is true for garlic, onions, radishes and whatever else can be considered “hot”. The less water they get, the “hotter” they are. It’s been my experience that the slower they grow, the more concentrated the heat.
Actually, the seeds don’t really contribute anything, but since the seeds are attached to the ribs, that’s the source of the myth that the seeds have more heat. It’s actually the ribs conferring the heat, but the seeds got the blame. They’re just coated in the capsaicin from the ribs.
I buy serranos because they seem consistently hotter than jalapenos. And they’re the same price at grocery stores. Also jalapenos taste “green” to me, like how green bell peppers taste in comparison to red or orange ones. Serranos don’t have that “green” taste.
There are many sub varieties of jalapeños. New Mexico State University is researching chile agriculture along with several other Universities in the Southwest. In general, length to width is a good gauge of general expected hotness for all chilies (with the exception of Habenero and Scotch Bonnet), the longer and thinner the hotter the chile will be. Age of the chile will affect the hotness to some extent, but not as much as the genetics, and the environment that it was grown in and the weather during the time it was ripening.
I heard somewhere that you can tell the hotness of a chili by how curved the stem is. The more curve, the more heat. It’s been pretty true for me – but it could also be because the more mature peppers have more curved stems.
This is a reply for Margaret from the Midwest. My father has gardened for over 60 years and he always said the temperature and the soil does play part in the heat of vegetables. I have never grown jalapenos but he has grown thousands in his time as a gardener. I know that the soil and temperature does come into play on a lot of other vegetables.
This is not completely accurate. The striations do imply a hotter pepper, but if you allow the pepper to ripen to the point where it’s red it will lose some heat and get sweeter (though it will likely still be hotter than before the striations).
If you’re growing peppers the striations are a good indication of when to harvest, though not all pepper varieties have them.
I’ve had the same problem with jalepenos, that’s why I just steer clear of them altogether and user Serrano chiles which tend to be more predictably spicy. We have these chilies at Indian groceries here in NY that tip the scale at 1M scoville units (about 200x more capsaicin than Jalepenos)
What great information! I really do like the red ones the best; somehow the sweetness of them does not make them seem as hot to me as the green.
I, too, have to disagree on some level. While I have never really tested the proposed “tip” I do know for certain that some of the mildest jalapenos I have ever had were the red ones (they are SWEETER, and sometimes hotter, but not alwasy). I’ve never really paid attention to the striations. Here in the Southwest, we have chiles everywhere and several of the farmers that I’ve talked to indicate that the real factors that influence heat in any kind of chile (that would be degree of heat within species of course) have to do with growing conditions, primarily water. The chiles on the outer edges of the fields where it is hotter and drier are the hottest of the harvest and vice versa. Many vendors (in market stalls as well as supermarkets) would be glad to offer you a sample of the produce. I always just test the stem end after I remove it from the chiles to see how “hot” they are going to be.
Also, regarding the person who commented above wondering about “red” jalapenos being true jalapenos, I can only assume that they are in fact jalapenos that are more mature (thus red). The lack of “roundness” in the stem is likely due to the fact that it is somewhat more dessicated than the green counterparts due to its age. That said, it wouldn’t be the first time produce was mis-named or mis-labeled.
Thanks for the great tip on jalapenos. I make aMango & Jalapeno Jelly, my one canning claim to fame.
I love our recipe for jalapeno jelly which uses cranberries for color and pectin. I love the mango jalapeno combination and think it would be terrific in a jam/jelly. ~Elise
Great article! In Texas, they call the striations “heat marks” and the more you have indeed the hotter the pepper. The color is not necessarily a good heat indicator though as it depends on if the pepper ripened that way on the vine or off. If the pepper is allowed to ripen on the vine, it will be hotter and a bit sweeter. I have also have had store bought red jalepenos that were mild, so really the heat marks are the best way to tell. Also another way is by the weight of the pepper – if it’s heavier than it looks, it will be hotter.
Thanks for the enjoyable tip and great photos. I’ve noticed that some of my local markets (not the Latin tiendas, but stores like Safeway) carry a different brand of chili that they call “red jalapeños” except that they don’t appear to be jalapeños at all unless there is a variety that I’m unaware of. Do you happen to know if this is a misnomer or if it is a different variety with the same common name? The principle difference is at the stem, which isn’t as round as on “green” jalapeños. They aren’t just the usual sort of jalapeños that have turned red on the shelf.
Haven’t heard of it. ~Elise
Thanks Elise… although I live in Mexico and have known jalapeños all my life, this is very useful. Especially now… all the chiles that they serve in restaurants here in Monterrey nowadays are SO hot!! horribly so! I myself am not a chile fan, but I do enjoy some spice now and again. So, I will take your advice into account. Do you know if the same holds true for chiles serranos (or chiles verdes, as they are commonly referred to)?
I don’t. I have not seen serrano chiles develop the same striations, though they will turn black-ish on their way to turning red. ~Elise
Even with this tip, peppers are quite variable. Always taste before using. Last week, I bought two poblanos and one was very mild while the other was fairly hot. I know because I tasted them.
A bit more info from Jean Andrews’ lovely book “Peppers” — the ribs have about double the concentration of capsaicin as the outer wall and bleach or milk will remove capsaicin from your hands. It is also soluable in alcohol.
Personally, I always use serranos instead of jalepenos. They just taste better.
I’ll look forward to checking this out. In one of my Mexican cookbooks, there is also the claim that heat is related to the size of the “shoulder” of the pepper, the part just under the stem. Supposedly, the narrower the shoulder, the hotter the pepper. I often employ that when I buy, but it’s hard to know how accurate it is.
I just read recently (maybe Gourmet magazine?) that it’s a myth that there’s any heat in the seeds, it’s all in the “ribs”.
Yeah, just think about that myth the next time you eat a seed. Hah! ~Elise
Is it true that soaking the jalapenos in water for a bit reduces the hotness?
Doubtful. What makes a chile hot is a chemical called capsaicin which is not water soluble, but is fat soluble. This is why drinking water after eating hot chilies will not help reduce the heat, but eating (full fat) yogurt or sour cream will. ~Elise
I have to disagree with you. I grow jalapenos and can tell you that this is simply not true. Hotness is genetically determined: some of my plants produce mild peppers (no matter how old the pepper: green, stretched, or red, they are all the same). Other plants produce hotter peppers.
Hmm. I grow jalapenos too, and have found otherwise. But it could be that the more mature peppers just have the capsaicin better distributed throughout the flesh. The variations in heat in the peppers from a single plant might be slight. I wouldn’t expect to have one plant that grew mild peppers and hot peppers, but I would expect the more mature peppers to be hotter than the less mature ones on the plant, at least in the part that I eat, the flesh. ~Elise
Thanks Elise! I grow jalapenos too and waited to pick so they would be bigger for stuffing and then couldn’t eat them due to be so overly hot.(They did have lots of stretch marks) Do you know if soil or growing temperatures makes a difference too? I’m in the midwest and we’re having a much cooler summer than normal.
No idea on the soil or temperature. I suspect it has more to do with the variety, but who knows? Sometimes my peppers are all pretty hot, sometimes less so. Right now I’m growing some Anaheims that are completely mild. No heat whatsoever, but they taste great. I’ll buy what I think is the same variety starter from the same nursery and have different results based on the season. My tomatoes same thing. This year they aren’t nearly as flavorful as in past years. We had an exceptionally cool start to the summer and the local paper reported that the tomato crop was trailing by 4-6 weeks because of it. Tomatoes and peppers are related, so if heat affects tomatoes, maybe it affects chiles too? ~Elise
This is great for me, because I finally acknowledged that I really and truly loathe bell peppers in all colors, but I love a bit of spice to some of my meals. This way I can use jalapeños without fear!
You should still fear jalapeños (wash hands carefully after cutting them, or wear gloves), and should always taste before using, so you know how much heat you are adding to a dish. ~Elise
Great tip Elise. Thanks very much. Picking peppers has always been such a “crap shoot”, it’ll be great to finally know what we’re getting.
Oh, it will still be a crapshoot, just one with better odds. ~Elise
Is this true of other varieties as well?
Other varieties of chili peppers? I have no idea. ~Elise
I grow jalapenos on my balcony garden – should I leave them on the plant longer to make them hotter? Or is it only a post-picking transformation as you mentioned in an earlier comment? First time gardener!
If you don’t pick them, they will eventually turn red. ~Elise
Thanks for the tip! I wish it were easier to find red jalapenos – I love them.
I grow jalapenos and have noticed that even after I’ve picked them while they are still green, if I don’t use them up right away, they will turn red in the kitchen counter bowl where I’ve placed them. Sort of the way that a green tomato might continue to ripen after it’s picked. Doesn’t happen all the time, sometimes they just wither instead of continuing to ripen. ~Elise
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