Botanically, jalapenos are fruit pods from the nightshade family in the genus, capsicum. Jalapenos are mostly available green, turning red as they mature, but sometimes waiting for them to turn red is the hard part, either because you are afraid they will crack or you just want to go ahead and pick them!
Jalapenos have a strong spicy taste that comes from the active alkaloid compounds; capsaicin, capsanthin and capsorubin. On the Scoville hotness scale, jalapeños fall in medium-hot range at 2,500-4,000 “Scoville heat units” (SHU). An easy way to compare: sweet bell peppers have zero units, and Mexican habañeros have 200,000 to 500,000 units. I warn you not to just take a huge bite out of one as my daughter did when I wasn’t home. Tolerance level of peppers, including jalapenos, may have wide individual variations. Wherever feasible, they should be consumed in moderation. Instead of biting them whole, slice them and use them sparingly or scoop out the spicy seeds and membrane to stuff and roast them. And be careful when cutting fresh jalapenos because the capsaicin can burn your skin and eyes. Wear gloves while handling jalapenos, or wash your hands when finished.
That capsaicin does have it’s benefits though. It has been found to have anti-bacterial, anti-carcinogenic, analgesic, and anti-diabetic properties, at least in some early laboratory studies on experimental mammals. It also found to reduce LDL-cholesterol levels in obese individuals. Capsaicin has also shown promise for weight loss, especially of hard-to-lose belly fat, by increasing energy expenditure after consumption
Jalapenos are also a rich source of vitamin C, with almost 17 milligrams in a small pepper. That is equal to 18 percent of the recommended daily allowance for men and 23 percent for women. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps prevent damage from free radicals, molecules that can cause cell damage in your body. Jalapenos also supply a good amount of vitamin A which supports skin and eye health; one pepper offers 17 percent of the RDA for men and 22 percent for women.
To round it out, they contain other valuable antioxidants such as vitamin A, and flavonoids like beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, lutein, zea xanthin, and cryptoxanthin. These antioxidant substances in capsicum help to protect the body from injurious effects of free-radicals generated from stress and disease conditions. Jalapeno chillies characteristically contain more pyridoxine, vitamin E, vitamin K than other varieties of peppers. Vitamin K increases bone mass by promoting osteotrophic activity in the bones. It also has the beneficial effect in Alzheimer’s disease patients by limiting neuronal damage in their brain.
Cooking reduces the heat of jalapeno peppers. While it would be rare to eat a whole jalapeno pepper, sliced and diced jalapenos make a spicy addition to tomato and mango salsas, nachos, black and pinto beans and corn-based dishes. If you like your food hot, leave more of the inner white membrane on the chopped pepper, as that is where most of the capsaicin is concentrated. You can also roast jalapenos and other chili peppers, which imparts a smoky flavor. And if you want to keep some for later try pickling or preserving them.
5 plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
10 green onions
2 fresh jalapeno peppers, seeded if desired
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons hot pepper sauce
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
In a blender or food processor, pulse the tomatoes, green onions, jalapeno peppers, and cilantro to desired consistency. Transfer to a bowl, and mix in the lime juice, hot pepper sauce, black pepper, garlic powder, and salt.
SWEET JALAPENO CORNBREAD
2/3 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup white sugar
2 cups cornmeal
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1 2/3 cups milk
1 cup chopped fresh jalapeno peppers, or to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Grease a 9×13-inch baking dish.
Beat margarine and sugar together in a large bowl until smooth. Combine cornmeal, flour, baking powder, and salt in another bowl. Stir eggs and milk in a third bowl. Pour 1/3 milk mixture and 1/3 flour mixture alternately into margarine mixture; whisk until just mixed. Repeat with remaining ingredients and stir in jalapeno peppers. Spread mixture evenly into prepared baking pan.
Bake in preheated oven until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 22 to 26 minutes. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes before slicing.
MORE JALAPENO RECIPES: Preserved Pickled Jalapenos, Cornbread Chorizo Stuffing, Tomato Salad, Chicken with Tex-Mex Salsa, Grilled Jalapeno Poppers, Slow Cooker Corn and Jalapeno Dip, Jalapeno Jelly, Jalapeno Popper Pull Apart Bread, Cheddar Jalapeno Chicken Burgers with Guacamole