Jalapeño peppers (Capsicum annuum var.) have become very well known around the World; for example, the state of Texas, in the United States, has even made the jalapeño its official State Pepper since 1995, and practically every Mexican and Tex-Mex restaurant will offer them in one form or another, mixed in salsas, wrapped in tacos or topping nacho platters. However, this pepper was originally cultivated in the Mexican state of Veracruz; Jalapeño is the male demonym of Veracruz’s capital city, Jalapa (or Xalapa); it comes from the Nahuatl roots xālli – sand and āpan – water, a succinct way to describe the fertile region of rushing rivers flowing down to the cerulean bays of the Gulf of Mexico. Jalapeño peppers are also known as cuaresmeños in Mexico City, because in the olden days, they were brought there from Veracruz during the Catholic Lenten season (Cuaresma, in Spanish). There are many varieties of jalapeño, the standard being around two inches in length with a mild/medium hotness range of 5,000 to 8,000 Scoville units; the TAM and TAMII varieties, developed at the Texas A&M University, described as “very dark green 3″ x 1″ cylindrical pods which have thick walls and blunt ends” are milder, at under 1,500 Scoville units, and, at the other extreme, the Billy Biker may pack up to 30,000 Scoville units.
I always grow two plants of standard jalapeño pepper in my garden; although I start most of my Solanaceae crops (i.e., tomatoes, tomatillo, peppers and eggplant) from seed, the exception is for jalapeños. I was buying garden supplies with one of my daughters a few years ago, and we saw seedlings of a variety called “El Jefe” (“The Boss”); we thought it was so cute, we got two, and renamed one “La Jefa” (female form). Because of their head start, we had fresh hot peppers very early in the season, and from that point, I got into the habit of buying jalapeño seedlings (and naming them “El Jefe” and“La Jefa”.)
This year, in spite of the pandemic lockdown, my daughter managed to get me two jalapeño seedlings, so the tradition was not abolished; sure enough, they are already blooming and developing fruit, while my other peppers (started from seed), are just about four inches tall at this point. The flowers are so pretty (pictured at the top of this post), resembling the puffy white skirt and black apron of the traditional jarocha garments, from their native Veracruz:
Over the past week, I kept going back to the plants to capture different stages of development, from buds to small peppers:
The rain has been encouraging my peppers to grow, and I expect to have my first jalapeño harvest within the next few days. Although this pepper is not a commercially important crop in Veracruz nowadays, there are many traditional recipes featuring them, so I hope to share one soon.
I am joining Cee’s Flower of the Day challenge for June 27, 2020.