I don't go a day without spicy food. Yes, they have health benefits like speeding up metabolism and aiding digestion, but my main reason for eating them is much more simple. I simply crave that burn! So NOTHING is more disappointing than selecting a jalapeño that tastes like a bell pepper! Can I get an amen?! Some dishes just aren't the same without that kick! I even started avoiding jalapeños and opted for the more reliable habenero or serrano peppers.
That was until I met a jalapeño growing ninja from my local farmer's market that schooled me on jalapeño growing basics: how to GUARANTEE the spice level every time. Say what?!?
This grower stressed her jalapeño plants by planting them too close to other plants and not giving them enough water or sunlight. In other words... abuse your jalapeño plants and you will be winning!
As I always do with produce, I select the freshest options and avoid blemishes and bruises. When it came to jalapeños, I did the same thing, mistaking stress marks for blemishes or lack of freshness. I never knew what I was missing! Stress marks indicate the peppers' higher capsaicin level. Capsaicin is the compound in peppers responsible for that pleasant tingle (or terrible burn for those with low spice tolerance) and peppers' topical pain management benefits.
I thought this gardening hack might be too good to be true, but I'm happy to report my own experiments have validated this tip time and time again! I now purposely neglect my own jalapeño plants and I am delighted with that intense burn. Here is a picture of my own stressed jalapeño. I'm a quick learner!
Note that capsaicin does decrease with storage and processing, so your pepper will be spiciest when it is fresh and firm.If you see me digging down deep in the jalapeño produce bin at the store, you'll know what I'm looking for.
Cheers to enjoying every jalapeño from now on!