“J” Is For Jalapeno by Nazia Hussain

***image1***Hi there, it’s Naz here again. Last month I took a break from writing about a particular ingredient and decided to talk about the different types of intolerances that exist. This month, I wasn’t sure which herb/spice/ingredient I should write about, when I happened to be sitting in a Mexican restaurant having lunch with some friends. I was about to put some food into my mouth when I spotted a piece of Jalapeno pepper starring at me from my plate. Hence I thought it would be the ideal ingredient to write about.

’J’ is for Jalapeno

Image taken from www.recipes4us.co.uk

The generic Chili plant interestingly enough is classified as a fruit, and not a vegetable and came from either Peru or Bolivia sometime around 7000 BC. The seeds of the plant were carried by birds across to other parts of America; Central, South and Southern North America. The Jalapeno (Chili or Chile) pepper got its name from a village by the name of Jalapa in the area of Veracruz, Mexico where it is said to have originated. It is by far the most popular form of chilli eaten especially in the US and Europe!!

Jalapeno peppers come from the capsicum family and are dark green in colour but turn red when mature. Their shape is long and like a cone and they normally reach a length of approximately 2 inches when fully grown. They are rich in Vitamin C, A and E, potassium and folic acid, so are rich in nutrients.

There are at least two varieties of Jalapeno peppers, the North American variety, and the Mexican variety. They are the two locations where they are grown the most. The North American type needs dry air with lots of water where as Mexican variety does well in the heat and humidity. Hence there is a decline in production of the North American Jalapeno during the hot summer. In general, it takes about 2.5 — 3 months for the pepper to grow and each plant will yield about 30 pods.

Jalapenos are known for providing that ‘kick’ in food. The ‘kick’ comes from the seeds and the rib of the skin so many people remove both these parts if they want just the flavour and not the heat!! The heat or spice comes from a group of 5 chemicals that are called Capsaicinoids. Each chemical in the family has a slightly different affect. The hottest one out of the five is the capsaicin which produces the fire sensation or burning in the mouth.

Capsaicin has no taste or smell and is produced by the glands in the placenta of the jalapeno which is located at the top of the pepper just below the stem. It is interesting that the placenta creates sixteen times more heat than the rest of the pepper. Despite the heat, jalapenos are extremely popular, probably due to their versatility. They can be added to almost anything and everything from soups to drinks to pasta to meats. They are most often eaten with nachos, potato chips, hot sauce, lemonade, vodka and many people actually make cookies, bagels and jams out of them.


It is interesting that the word for Chili in the Mexican Indian language is Nahuatl which actually means chilli In terms of variety, it is Mexico that produces the largest variety of chilli peppers in the region of about 140. Many people make the mistake of drinking water when they find the pepper too hot. This actually exacerbates the problem further as the capsaicin is not soluble in water, hence it encourages the water to spread around the mouth and therefore, spread the heat. The best solution for eradicating the burning sensation in the mouth, is to take a little sugar or milk.


Nutritional Values of a Jalapeno Pepper

Serving size 1 pepper (45g) Calories 20 Total Fat 0g Sodium 10mg Total Carbohydrate 3g Dietary Fiber 0g Protein 1g The Jalapeno pepper is also low in fat (actually there is none in it!!) as well as in Carbs and Protein. Therefore it is suitable for people on all the different diets that exist in the market, be it Low Fat or Low Carb!!

Interesting Facts

The following is a hotness ranking of peppers from mild to hottest.

El Paso (Very mild)







Red Chile





Habanero (30 to 50 times hotter than a jalapeno)


This month’s recipe is a simple dish to make although it is slightly fiddly when stuffing the peppers. I made this as an experiment when I had some left over soya mince. I have suggested 250g of mince although a lot of it will be left over, so keep some in the freezer and then use to stuff more peppers when you are ready to do so. I hope you enjoy making it!!

Stuffed Grilled Jalapeno Peppers


At least 12 Jalapeno Peppers (mixture will make more)

250g soya mince

Salt and pepper to taste

2 cloves of garlic

1 tsp chopped garlic

1 tsp of olive oil

½ chopped onion

3 tbs chopped tomatoes (from a can) or 2 fresh tomatoes pureed in a blender

Low fat grated cheese


Saute the onion, garlic and ginger in the olive oil and add the seasoning.

Add the soya mince

Mix well and simmer until the soya mince is cooked.

Add the chopped tomato and cook on low heat for a further 10 minutes.

Ensure that all the liquid has evaporated.

Slice the jalapeno peppers in half and remove the seeds

Add a tsp of the soya mixture into the jalapeno pepper and place under the grill for 10 minutes.

If you feel like indulging sprinkle add a bit of low fat cheese over the top of the peppers prior to grilling and allow to sizzle before removing.

Back next month with more from Naz! If you have any suggestions, please do not hesitate to contact me on noshbynaz@yahoo.co.uk. Feedback is always encouraged.

Bye for now.


by Nazia Hussain
A business consultant by day and a passionate cook by night. Nazia is currently away from her home, London, seeking new international recipes for her column!