Jalapenos are a wonder in pretty much any dish you can think to use them. They bring color, taste, and most importantly heat to dishes that may be bland.
But why are jalapenos sold green ? As peppers, they are perfectly ripe when they are red. So why sell them underripe ? Here’s what we’ve found out.
Why are jalapenos picked green ?
Jalapenos are typically picked when they’re green due to a combination of customer expectations, heat level, and how much can be harvested. So a green jalapeno means the plant will not spend time developing all the fruits to maturity, which means all fruits will be harvested and then sold.
It also means the jalapenos will be a bit hotter and have the expected flavor, as opposed to a red jalapeno. You can easily find black and red jalapenos for sale, though it’s customary for them to be served green.
1. Customers expect jalapenos to be green
Jalapenos have been around for ages. And for ages people have known them to be that perfect, spicy, green pepper that makes everything better. There are entire recipes revolving around a jalapenos’ typical flavor and color, which change once the fruit ripens.
Not to say that red or black jalapenos are never bought. They are, it’s just not the norm and we all know how people like things to be familiar.
2. Picking young jalapenos means more jalapenos
Another important reason jalapenos are typically picked and sold green is because the plant will yield more fruits. You see when a jalapeno plant grows, it produces flower that then turn into the peppers you bring home. When green, the jalapenos are not yet ripe but are already edible.
If farmers were to leave all the jalapenos on a plant to ripen, some of the flowers wouldn’t produce fruits. The fruits don’t come all at once, but in stages. And if those green peppers were left on the plant until they turned dark green, then black, then red, not all of them would become fully mature.
Read also: Are Pepper Seeds Edible ?
A plant can only feed so many fruits, and a good amount of peppers will have a weird flavor, or not be spicy, and not develop properly. So, picking them when they’re still green is the best way to ensure they’re really good and all the fruits can be harvested and sold.
This way no farmers lose any money, and the customers get that they expect. A green, hot pepper.
3. Red jalapenos are sweeter
There is a bit of a debate about red jalapenos, in that some claim they’re hotter, and some claim they’re not as hot. What’s certain is that red jalapenos are sweeter, just like any other pepper on this planet. As a fully matured, ripe pepper it will be less bitter and slightly sweet.
In regards to heat, you’d expect them to be hotter, though accounts differ. Even if there is a difference, we think it’s not enough to warrant choosing one over the other. After all, spiciness is a scale, not a set number. Jalapenos are somewhere in the 3500-8000 on the Scoville scale. That scale measures spiciness in hot peppers, with bell peppers ranging from 0 to 500.
So you see how jalapenos have a wide, wide margin. Each plans and season produces different scored on the Scoville scale. It could be that someone’s experience with a mild red jalapeno would’ve been the same if the pepper were green but from the same plant.
So in short, there’s no real difference, aside form color and a bit of sweetness. You can rely on red jalapenos to bring a nice kick to a dish, just like a green one would.
Will picked green jalapenos turn red ?
Once the jalapenos are picked they will not ripe. All they can do is go bad and start to rot if left for too long, or stored poorly. The only way to ripen peppers, including jalapenos, is to leave them on the vine until they reach the ripeness you want.
They need direct sunlight, water, and the nutrients the plant develops in order to really mature. So any time you buy something other than a bright red jalapeno, it’s not a fully matured pepper.
This also means that if you were to try and use the jalapeno seeds to grow your own at home, you’d have a very poor chance of success. This is because the seeds themselves are not mature, so they can’t really sprout and produce a good pepper for you.
Read Also: Can You Freeze Serrano Peppers?
How do you tone down the heat of jalapenos ?
If your jalapenos are way too hot there are a few ways to tone them down. The simplest and quickest is to remove the seeds and the white membrane. These contain the most heat, and as such will give the biggest punch.
your second option is to use something fatty, especially something like dairy. Jalapenos, like all hot peppers, contain capsaicin. This is a fat-soluble compound that acts as an irritant and is the pepper’s natural defense.
Since capsaicin bonds easily with fat molecules, you can tone it down with a very fatty cheese, or with heavy cream, or even white cheese as long as it’s not too salty. Salt only makes heat stronger, as does acid like vinegar or lemon juice.
If you have time on your hands, you may also cut the jalapenos, remove the seeds and membrane, and then soak them in a water and vinegar solution for about an hour. Be sure to rinse them very thoroughly before cooking ! The water and vinegar will draw out a lot of bitterness and capsaicin, which will tone down the overall heat of the jalapenos.
And another way is to add some carbs, be they in the form of potatoes, bread, paste, rice, anything. They will spread out the capsaicin and give your something to dull the strength.