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Apr 20, 2010 08:33 PM

Have they finally bred the heat out of Jalapenos?

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


              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.

              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.


                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.

                        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.


                          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

                                  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.

                            1. 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.