JALAPENO (Capsicum annuum) is a classic heirloom originating in Mexico. Usually harvested when green, you can tell the heat of a jalapeno by the number of striations on its skin, the more the hotter! (see photo below) The 2.5'-3' plants produce fruits that are 2"-3" long. You can harvest over a long period, but when your plants start producing red peppers, it is nearing its end of production. Save your seed from the red ones, as they are not as flavorful or hot at that point. That wonderful smoky Chipotle sauce which Americans have become addicted to is made from red jalapenos that are smoked. 10 seeds. 70-80 days.
HEALTH BENEFITS: According to the American Heart Association, "Regular chili pepper consumers could have longer lifespans due to the fruit’s anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anticancer and blood-glucose regulating properties. These factors play a role in reducing a person’s risk of dying from a cardiovascular disease or cancer."
ABOUT GROWING PEPPERS: Whether Sweet or Heat, peppers must be started indoors and really appreciate bottom warmth (80 degrees) and grow lights for vigorous starts. Be sure to pick varieties that will have sufficient time to complete their growth in your area. Also, hot peppers will be hotter as the temperature rises, so if you want heat and live in the north, buy the hottest varieties available so you won't be disappointed. Vice versa for the south. Use gloves when handling hot pepper seeds and some of the hot peppers themselves. Start peppers indoors 8 weeks before transplanting. Sow seeds 1/4" deep. Keep soil moist. Peppers may take up to two weeks to pop up. When weather warms (daytime soil near 80 degrees and nighttime temps above 50 degrees) you can transplant into rich prepared soil in a sunny position, about 18'' apart and, if in rows, about 24'' apart. I like to give my peppers some support, usually a stake or cage, as productive plants can keel over from the weight of their fruit. Consider spacing your peppers around your vegetable garden, as they can be helpful in warding off furry invaders of your greens and such. Use organic mulch to fend off weeds and keep soil moist in hot dry summers. Peppers need regular moderate watering, but water from below. Peppers are so versatile. You can use fresh, cook them in a variety of ways, dry many varieties easily, and freeze many varieties for later cooking.
END OF SEASON TIP: If you have grown a variety that you love and want to grow the following season, consider cloning this season's healthy plant. It's easy to do. Just take a healthy cutting and root in moist soil indoors. You'll want to remove any lower leaves and sink so that as much stem as possible is in the soil with just a few top leaves showing. I like to put on a heating mat under grow lights and then pot up after the roots have really gotten going. You can keep this cutting alive through the winter and early spring and get a jump on the growing season next year. Avoid using cuttings from any plant that shows signs of blight or pest infestation.