Jalapeño

  • Sun: Full sun
  • Harvest Size: 3 inches long, 0.5 to 1 inch wide
  • Days to Harvest: 72
  • Plant size: 24 to 48 inches tall, 18 inches wide
  • Scoville units:: 2,500 to 5,000 (medium)

Make your own poppers or salsa with homegrown jalapeños, the most popular chile pepper in the nation. Easy to grow, these plants yield dozens of small, thick-walled, medium-hot fruits.

Plants grow and yield well in many conditions: hot, cool, humid, or dry. These peppers also adapt well to growing in containers. Take care to locate jalapeño peppers away from any TAM Mild jalapeño peppers you may grow to avoid harvest mix-ups.

Plant spacing: 18-24 inches apart in rows 30 inches apart; 12 to 18 inches in intensive gardens. One plant per 18-inch container. Plants per person: 1 to 2 for fresh use; 3 to 4 for drying, freezing, or making jelly.

Secrets to Success »

Peppers are very cold-sensitive. Don’t set plants out in the garden until two weeks after the last frost. Moisture is vital for fruit development. To help soil retain moisture, mix compost into planting holes, and mulch soil around plants. Pepper branches are brittle. Stake plants as fruits start to form, tying pepper-laden branches to stakes, or use small tomato cages for support.

Harvest and Use »

Snip stems of individual peppers using a sharp knife or clippers, leaving a small portion of stem attached. Rinse and dry peppers; store in the refrigerator. The more peppers you pick, the more you’ll get. Pick when glossy green. Although peppers are most succulent when green, jalapeños do turn red when fully ripe, so experiment with a few for red poppers. Heat varies by pepper, even on the same plant. As fruits mature, sometimes jalapeño skin develops a netting pattern, which doesn’t affect flavor but signals that the pepper is not quite as succulent.

Handle hot peppers with care; it’s best to wear disposable rubber or plastic gloves when harvesting or handling fruit. To avoid burning sensations, don’t touch your eyes, mouth, or nasal areas while working with hot peppers. Wash your hands before using the bathroom, even if you’ve been wearing gloves.

Capsaicin, the compound that produces the heat in a hot pepper, is primarily concentrated in the veins, ribs, and seeds, but sensitivity to it varies. Use caution until you know how you’ll react. If pepper juice gets in your eye or nose, flush immediately with cold water. When the fire is in your mouth, drink milk or eat ice cream or yogurt to counteract the burn. Do not re-use wash cloths or towels that may have capsaicin on them; launder them to avoid spreading the chemical. After working with jalapeños, wash cutting surfaces, prep tools, and knives carefully before using them to prepare other food.

Peppers are packed with Vitamins A and C—twice the vitamin C of an orange. Use jalapeño peppers to season salsa, chili sauce, dips, or relishes. Pickle or create spicy hot pepper vinegar. Chop fresh peppers over nachos and pizza, or stuff them to make jalapeño poppers. Preserve the hot flavor in pepper jelly, or dry jalapeños to create a sizzling spice.

Try These Garden Companions »

  • Cilantro, tomatoes, and onions—all the ingredients you need for creating a hot garden fresh salsa.
  • Onions, sweet banana peppers, and basil to whip up a savory pickled pepper blend.
  • Habanero, Poblano/Ancho, Tabasco or Red Chili peppers onions, and tomatoes to blend a signature hot pepper sauce.
  • Low growing flowers such as petunias and marigolds—colorful-fruited peppers look great tucked into flower beds.

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