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Have they finally bred the heat out of Jalapenos?

  • Duppie Apr 20, 2010 08:33 PM
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Perhaps it's just me but over the past year or so I have encountered milder and milder Jalapenos until tonight I asked for my usual bowl of Pho with onions and Jalapenos on the side, and there was absolutely no heat at all. None! It might as well have been a bell pepper.
So is it just me? or have the growers finally engineered all the heat out of the Jalapeno?

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  1. I have the same feeling as you. But I don't think it has been within a year. I have noticed it over the past few years. They jalapenyos seem giant as well.

    1. It's a green pepper!!! I swear, I can eat the entire thing just like a green pepper.

      5 years ago they used to be spicy, now I can get my sisters who hate hot/spicy food to eat them like green peppers!

      This is extremely frustrating.

      1. Here in Texas the japs vary a great deal. Some are still quite hot, but others don't pack much more punch than a Bell pepper. My understanding is that there is a demand (real or perceived, I do not know) by people who consume garden variety nachos at sporting events for mild japs on said nachos. This has driven the emasculation of the jap.

        22 Replies
        1. re: Perilagu Khan

          They have indeed bred several varities of jalapenos to be more mild. I noticed it last year in my garden. This year I switched to Biker Billy and Mucho Nacho Hybrids because of their heat levels. I harvested my first japs last weekend and was not disappointed. Plenty of fire.

          1. re: jacobp

            The mild ones are called TAM Jalapenos (for Texas A&M, where the cultivar was developed), and it seems like they're everywhere these days. I only wish that they were explicitly marketed with the TAM name so that I could avoid them if I see them. My default position is not to buy jalapenos in the supermarket at all, but to trust them at small local Mexican markets and the like.

            1. re: TongoRad

              +1

              I'd think that the larger stores would get more open interest if they would label them as "mild" and "hot."

              I stick to my Mexican markets tho. Cheaper, and better anyway.

              1. re: TongoRad

                I hit my local Home Depot and picked up 2 small plants and oddly enough right next to them was some TAM Jalapeno plants for $1.00 more than the regular Jalapenos.
                Why?

              2. re: jacobp

                Good work.

                And like TongoRad, I wish that the supermarkets would differentiate the wimped down japs from the real McCoy. Seems like a no-brainer to me.

                1. re: Perilagu Khan

                  Here in this part of New Jersey I have the choice of the larger supermarkets,a few Latin and Asian markets and a great little farm stands when in season and other than some lucky instances I have yet to find a reliable source of jalapenos with any significant heat.
                  As much as I know it's not right or sanitary I now take a small bite out of one before I buy and keep a few cans of La Morena pickled Jalapenos and Serranos in the house.

                  1. re: Duppie

                    Duppie- if you don't mind the flavor difference you can substitute chiles from an Indian market (those small ones the size of your finger) for a fresh jalapeno or serrano. They definitely have some kick to them. Or you could even use a combination of them and the mild jalapenos, depending on the recipe.

                    Just for convenience's sake I grew a single cayenne plant last year, and those chiles worked well enough in various dishes, including pico de gallo and guacamole. The Indian chiles would be similar- I guess it all depends on how much of a stickler for authenticity you are.

                    1. re: TongoRad

                      Thanks. I keep some fresh Thai peppers in the house and a bottle of of El Yucateco xxx for heat so I guess I miss the crunch and burn that comes with fresh hot Jalapenos.

              3. re: Perilagu Khan

                Here's a thought. If you don't like jalapenos, don't eat them!!!!!

                (not directed at you PK)

                Quit screwing with our food. Jap are hot. They're supposed to be that way. I don't like raisins so I don't eat them. I'm not expecting food scientists to start making raisins taste like pizza.

                DT

                1. re: Davwud

                  That's how I feel. Also, I learned the hard way that one of the Vietnamese places I go to a lot are still able to get the hot ones. The last time I was there for pho, I tossed three or four slices of jalapenos into the broth and popped them in my mouth a few minutes later thinking they'd be as mild as all of the others I've had in the past couple of years. They were really hot (like they're supposed to be).

                  1. re: Davwud

                    In theory I agree with you. But in a free market, growers, distributors and sellers of food will try to make money, and that usally means satisfying a segment of the market. Given that that's the reality presented to us I'd like for the supermarkets to at least do us the favor of letting us know where we can get the real japs.

                    1. re: Perilagu Khan

                      IMO farmer conservatism gets into the act here.

                      Farmers want to grow what someone will buy, and large corporate BOTTLED SALSA sellers (Old El Paso, Pace, etc.) buy far, far more jalapenos than Joe and Jane Chowhound.

                      To make matters worse for us chile lovers, Latino markets in my area cater to a very large, lower income demographic, so they tend to buy and sell whats Cheap, not what's necessarily better tasting.

                      Add large, less flavorful mutant serranos to the list of crappy chiles in our markets. I haven't found evidence yet that this is a new cultivar, so perhaps farmers are watering and fertilizing more to increase size and yield.

                      I've found that the flavor of the TAM mild jalapenos is just unacceptable and only encounter smaller, better jalapenos by chance. For flavor substitute, I'm now using serranos mixed with fresh chile de arbol (Muy picante!).

                      1. re: DiveFan

                        True, no doubt. And added to that, big-name jarred salsas are almost devoid of heat these days, it seems to me. There are still some very good and hot jarred salsas, but you have to venture deep into the chilehead bulrushes (or rural New Mexico) to find them.

                      2. re: Perilagu Khan

                        I don't have a problem with that, so long as they're labeled properly. The problem is my supermarket has a basket titled "jalapeño" with no information as to what variety they are.

                        1. re: aynrandgirl

                          Chile taxonomy is extremely complex and most produce grocers don't have the expertise to know exactly what they have on hand. They have a difficult enough time differentiating between a New Mexico green and an Anaheim; I can only imagine their consternation as they try to winnow TAM japs from real japs.

                      3. re: Davwud

                        mmmm pizza raisins ,(slobber)

                        1. re: Davwud

                          What's so iconic about a hot Jalapeno? As hot peppers go, even the 'traditional' ones are not all that hot (2,500 - 8,000 scoville units). I think their thick flesh is more distinctive than their heat level.

                          If you want to stick with a fresh Mexican variety, and want more heat, I'd suggest a serrano. Smaller, not quite as 'fleshy', roughly twice as hot, but still 'munchable'.

                          Keep in mind that your own heat tolerance can change. A chile that would have seemed very hot to you ten years ago might seem mild now just because you have developed a tolerance. Tolerance can go the other direction as you age and heart burn and related GI problems become an issue.

                          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_...

                          1. re: paulj

                            I don't know how iconic they are, but I personally want truth in advertising. I have grown up with jalapenos that possess a certain amount of heat and when I purchase them I expect that heat to be there.

                            Good point about changes in tolerance, though. My mouth is much tougher now than it was 20 years ago, no doubt.

                            1. re: Perilagu Khan

                              While groceries in my area give the country of origin of produce, they haven't started to advertise the Scoville units. :)

                              1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                I much prefer serranos, they have less of the bell-pepper grassiness that jalapenos do, whether suitably hot or not. Markets here carry jalapenos far more frequently than they do serranos - not sure if they keep better or it's a function of familiarity / demand.

                              2. re: paulj

                                Personally, I have to say that serranos seem to have been "tamed" the same way as jalapenos. I've noticed it in the past several years. I have a chili recipe I got years ago, and it called for 12 minced serranos, and I recall it being incendiary at the time....I even have old margin notes saying 12 is too hot, and to use 6, and I did this for years. I also remember having to wear latex gloves when cutting them, since the residual juices on my fingers was murder on lips and eyes.

                                But now, 12 serranos isn't enough for me, and even my kids don't notice heat or spiciness (ages 9 and 7). My 7 year old has even taken bites out of them, and barely noticed heat. and I bare-hand chop them, licking my fingers afterwards, too.

                                What's up with that???

                                1. re: ChefBoyAreMe

                                  It could be that they are using more irrigation. This increases yield. But there is some evidence that peppers grown in dry conditions are more pungent. Also many varieties are hotter if picked later in the season.

                          2. Crikey, not in the ones I've gotten lately in markets in Brooklyn. Hot hot hot.

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: buttertart

                              Everything's hot in Brooklyn. ;)

                              1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                If you only knew...

                                1. re: buttertart

                                  I read someplace ten or so years ago, or longer, that a milder or virtually heat-less jalapeño had been cultivated for the American palate; suddenly it was a given that the supermarket variety weren't going to contain much heat.

                                  I just bought two at the supermarket (in Brooklyn) on Monday and they were quite zippy, for a change.

                                  My experience with serranos and poblanos is hit or miss heat; I've had some poblanos that have the character of bell peppers and some that really pack a punch. Although serranos seem to be more consistently hot, I've tasted (gingerly) some duds as well.

                                  1. re: bushwickgirl

                                    Variation in the heat level of chiles is normal. Look up descriptions of the Spanish Padron, which are fried and served as tapas. They'll mention "Spanish Roulette!", that fact that most will be mild, with an occasional hot one.

                                    One thing that plant scientists (and backyard grows) have sought is consistency. If you are bothered about some being mild, and others hot, think what the big salsa maker feels. (We) consumers expect consistency in a processed product. If the jar of salsa says 'mild' we'd be upset if it was too hot; conversely if too mild.

                                    Perhaps the best of making a consistent salsa (whether hot or mild) is to start with a base of consistently mild peppers, and add a know amount of heat via an extract or well blended powder.

                            2. This is somewhat off-topic, but I've noticed the same thing with serrano peppers in the course of --at least--the last year or two. However, it's not consistent. Sometimes they're like bell peppers, sometimes they blow your head off. I think it's the nature of the beast. However, I agree with other posters that Jalapenos look like they're on steroids now. I never eat them (not enough heat to begin with), but they sure look strange.

                              1. First try growing your own. Jalapenos (most peppers actually) make attractive pot plants and require only modest attention. Add some dish washing detergent and epsom salts (just a bit now) to your watering routine, don't over water (stressed plants produce hotter chilies) and save a few seeds from those peppers that suit your palate.
                                Genetics will out, but in a season or two you can have reasonably reliable hot peppers. And remember, the more hot 'stuff' you eat the more heat you are able to tolerate. that may account for your diminished sense of what's hot and what's not.

                                1. I agree with the original comment that the heat of jalapenos has been dummed down. And its not a case of my tolerance building as I actually eat less super hot stuff then I did say ten years ago. My worry is that the same thing might happen to Habaneros which have become MUCH more popular in the past 20 years or so. They were virtually exotic in 1985. Now you can get them at most any grocery store. I fear some places sell scotch bonnets as habaneros because they have such a similar look but the heat is less and the way it hits you is different. Not to mention the taste of the vegetable itself.

                                  20 Replies
                                  1. re: Insidious Rex

                                    According to this table
                                    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_...
                                    the Scoville range from Habaneros is roughly the same as for Scotch bonnets (100,000 to 350000). There is a similar looking aji dulce with no heat, which is popular in places like Puerto Rico. All 3 are 'exotic' to most US Americans.

                                    1. re: paulj

                                      Exotic? Seems to me my local supermarkets usually have baskets of fresh habaneros in the produce aisle, and have had for years. And Boston is not particularly known for hot foods.

                                      1. re: BobB

                                        Habs are becoming ever more mainstream, no doubt. My grocer carries 'em, and I know of at least three Mexican restaurants in my town who offer hab salsa.

                                        1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                          Habaneros, as well as many other types of chilies are offered in seed catalogs now as well; for example, mainstream Burpee has been selling a couple varieties of Habs for a few years now, so obviously people are growing them. This year Burpee introduced a 100 scoville unit habanero cultivar, called a Zavory; to what end, I don't know, and I hope it won't be the next generation of habaneros showing up at the grocers.

                                          1. re: bushwickgirl

                                            100 S.U.? Not 100K? I agree - how pointless!

                                            1. re: BobB

                                              That's right, no typo.

                                              I just don't understand the point, unless this cultivar has phenomenal flavor as a trade off. I guess you could serve them at parties to impress your unsuspecting friends...

                                              1. re: bushwickgirl

                                                http://www.caribbeanseeds.com/ajidulc...

                                                1. re: paulj

                                                  I'm not clear on why you posted the link.

                                                  The low SU habanero appears to be very authentic looking and red in color. Here's a little wiki info about the mild tasting cultivar, probably the same variety I was referring to: "In 2004 researchers in Texas created a mild version of the habanero pepper retaining the aroma and flavor of the traditional habanero pepper. The milder version was obtained by crossing the Yucatán habanero pepper with a heatless habanero from Bolivia over several generations. These mild habaneros were expected to be widely available in the future as of 2004."

                                                  Ajis are a bit smaller than habs, a bit more crinkled, similar in appearance to a scotch bonnet, contain no heat but just a touch of bitterness, and are never quite the beautiful colors of either. I suppose you could pass them off as scotch bonnets to the uninitiated:

                                                  http://www.celtnet.org.uk/images/scot...
                                                  http://www.bh-froe.com/ZC/images/Aji%...

                                                  1. re: bushwickgirl

                                                    I guess just to clarify that a low heat Capsicum chinense has been around for a long time.

                                              2. re: BobB

                                                I'd rather have the heat along with the flavor, but I don't think it's pointless.
                                                Habeneros have a really distinct flavor. I usually grow three or four habanero plants every year. Love the flavor and the heat. Maybe some ppl would like the flavor without the heat. Got me thinking about making some jerk chicken this wknd now. MMMMM.

                                                1. re: gordeaux

                                                  You're a tougher individual than I; I've never been able to get past the heat of a fresh habanero to taste much of the citrus. Actually, I remember a brief moment of flavor before the scorching set in the first time I tried a slice of a fresh one; but the memory of the heat has all but wiped out the memory of the flavor.
                                                  I find the flavor of the pepper gets lost a bit in salsa and jerk paste; it becomes harder to define. The heat of a habanero doesn't bring me to my knees like it used to, as I eat a fair amount of hotty-hot stuff now and have adjusted to a certain level of burn, and enjoy it, but I don't think I'm ready for another bite from a fresh hab, not quite yet.

                                                  1. re: bushwickgirl

                                                    Ah, bushwickgirl, if I could get you to Cancun restaurant in Lubbock you'd soon be singing a different tune. They have an extremely thin and blisteringly hot hab salsa that will make you cry from pleasure as much as pain. And despite the intense heat you can really taste that hab fruitiness. To think about this salsa is to salivate. Mercy!

                                                    1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                                      Do they ship?

                                                      1. re: bushwickgirl

                                                        That was the only possible response to PK's post, Cocoa's mom...I was thinking exactly the same thing reading it! (The El Yucateco XXX habanero salsa is pretty good, this sounds sublime.)

                                                        1. re: bushwickgirl

                                                          Seriously doubt it. The place doesn't even have a website. And ironically enough it's not a dive, either. Pretty high-tone outfit, but a bit behind the curve when it comes to self promotion and distribution.

                                                          1. re: bushwickgirl

                                                            If you have a local Trinidadian roti shop then I am sure you could get something very similar made from scotch bonnets (peppa sauce), as fruity as it is fiery and addictive, very fresh tasting and usually made in house.

                                                            1. re: TongoRad

                                                              Oh, we do in Brooklyn, quite a few, thanks!

                                                              1. re: TongoRad

                                                                Could be. This salsa is not much more viscous than a straight pepper sauce. It does have a bit of minced cilantro in it, too.

                                            2. re: Insidious Rex

                                              It would be more accurate to say that there are new cultivars that have less heat than the current most commonly available varieties. If you look at seed catalogs, there are many different varieties jalapeno peppers.

                                              1. re: raytamsgv

                                                To me, jalapenos have a very distinct flavor, as do serranos- I can tell one from the other. I preferthem to have heat, but I also appreciate being able to taste t he taste without hurting my mouth sometimes.

                                                I do like to know what I'm buying, though. one time I was macerating jalapenos in tequila to make some 110 in the shades (a cocktail) and th e damn jalapenos had no heat at all- kind of ruined it for me.

                                            3. I find I cannot even rely on my local Mexican grocery to have the hot ones. They're as likely to be mild as at any other store. I'm buying serranos these days, and fresh chiles de arbol.

                                              5 Replies
                                              1. re: comestible

                                                I was thinking it was all in my head but maybe the jalaps are in fact milder than they used to be (and definitely bigger as pointed out upthread). I really like the taste of jalapenos (sorry, don't know how to add a tilde on CH) and I feel there is a difference between them and serranos in flavour as mentioned upthread. I prefer to use jalaps in certain dishes like carrot salad but have found over the last three years that the ones we get in Vancouver generalemente no pican. I buy them in small veg stores or greengrocers, not supermarkets but it may be the neighbourhood I'm shopping in -- no good Mexican stores within reasonable driving distance. OT pet peeve: the number of small veg stores enveloping hot peppers in styro and saran so as to sell more at a go. I know their waste costs are an issue but I refuse to buy peppers from stores that do this.

                                                1. re: grayelf

                                                  (sorry, don't know how to add a tilde on CH)

                                                  This topic got discussed at length last year at : http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/597897

                                                  In brief: holding down the ALT key while you type 0241 on the number keypad produces an ñ if you're in Windows.

                                                  1. re: BobB

                                                    Thanks BobB -- I should have known someone would have asked that already :-). Now to see if that code sticks in my brain... Or maybe I'll just go to another website as some suggested, find the word and cut and paste it. I do love me ma tildes :-).

                                                    1. re: grayelf

                                                      BobB, I use alt + 164 for ñ. ñ (0241) works too.

                                                      grayelf, use this site for all kinds of cool Alt characters:
                                                      www.tedmontgomery.com/tutorial/ALTchr...

                                                      1. re: bushwickgirl

                                                        Bookmarked, thanks!

                                              2. Not bragging, but -
                                                I wish everyone here who can't seem to find hot ones could have had lunch with me today. Got a roasted chicken from one of the Mexican grocers. While supplies last, they come with oven roasted potatoes, grilled knob onions, and grilled jalapenos. They were sizzlin hot today. Sizzlin hot.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: gordeaux

                                                  Sounds like you struck Mexican gold. I just finished dinner and your post made me hungry.

                                                2. Duppie, it's not just you. I've wondered about the diminution in the hotness of jalapenos, as well. Until I started watching the Food Network, I didn't know that it was the seeds and the ribs that contained the hotness, so since I learned that this was the case, I had been removing them to tone the peppers down. Then, about five years ago, I started noticing that if I did that, there was no significant heat. I started leaving the ribs in to raise the heat level. Then I started having to leave in some of the seeds, as well. Next, I'll have to leave them whole and chop them to get the heat level I want.

                                                  (And no, I don't think it's me becoming inured to the heat levels. Friends of mine have noticed the difference, as well.)

                                                  1. Any change in canned peppers or sauces from Mexican sources? For example, most (all?) chipotle in adobo is still from Mexico. Any changes there?

                                                    3 Replies
                                                    1. re: paulj

                                                      My chipotles have remained plenty hot. Thankfully.

                                                      1. re: paulj

                                                        None that I can determine, I use the canned stuff frequently for marinades and dips and they are plenty hot. I also find now there is slight variations in the heat level in batches of Scotch bonnets, I don't use Habaneros much so I can't really comment on their heat. Perhaps this is a sign of things to come? A polite scotch bonnet or habanero?

                                                        1. re: Duppie

                                                          A habanero that feels you pain rather than inflicts it.

                                                      2. Seed suppliers are pretty good at distinguishing between J's and TA&M J's. If you want to grow something a little hotter, try "Jalepeno M" seeds (available from Harris Seeds or Everwilde).

                                                        3 Replies
                                                        1. re: DonShirer

                                                          If your into growing your own try Biker Billy Jalapenos from Burpee:
                                                          http://www.burpee.com/product/vegetab...
                                                          they pack quite a punch especially if you let them turn red...

                                                          1. re: byrd

                                                            Here in Central New Jersey I grow several varieties of chilies every year, from jalapenos to habeneros to thai red chilis (some from Burpee). They're not always perfect heat-wise but they are so easy to grow and freeze wonderfully. I've actually found that they often turn out hotter than I expected. We have great Hispanic/Carribean & Indian markets around here so if I have to buy some fresh I'd go there instead of a regular box store (MIddlesex Cty., NJ). Peppers of all kinds are just so easy and mellow to grow, even if you only have a porch step to put a single plant on it will be worth it.

                                                            What I've been doing over the last few years is just growing as large a yield as I can and a month or so before the end of the season I take whatever peppers I know I won't use while fresh and just dry and store them. I only dried maybe 1/2 lb. of jalapenos last year but using them this winter, they were way hotter dried than fresh, and I still have tons left.

                                                            Also, I do like to use seranos in place of jalapenos, but I think they're a little more difficult to grow successfully in my climate than the jalapenos.

                                                            1. re: Gatsby1

                                                              Well, NJ IS the Garden State! ;)

                                                              It's funny, even though NJ is a Yankee state it seems there is a high proportion of chileheads living there. But then you've got to be pretty tough to live in Jersey. As the tee shirt says, New Jersey: Only the Strong Survive!

                                                              And I ought to know--I lived in central NJ two years.

                                                        2. How about sampling the peppers at the store? I was looking at some chilacas at a multi-ethinic produce store, trying to find some that weren't bad, and glimpsed a lady with a head scarf beside me taking nibbles out of the bird chiles. I heard a younger woman (her daughter?) say something in a foreign language (African is my guess), probably say this American wouldn't approve. :)

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: paulj

                                                            As I posted earlier in this thread,I do exactly that and am still disappointed frequently so now I have decided to grow my own from some plants from my local Home Depot and backing them up with seeds I bought on line.