Q: Hi Dave,
I have been a "hot lover" for years and have had the chance to try many different foods and spices as I traveled the world for the U.S. Navy. I have recently decided to grow my own but have run into a problem. I am growing jalapeños, habaneros, and serranos. All of the jalapeños I have picked are just like a normal "green pepper." The only time I felt any heat was as I got up to the seed pod (stem) end. On the other hand, I picked a serrano the other day and it was just as I expected—very very hot. I did a Google search on the web and found a lot of articles that stated things like 1) too much watering can cause this, or 2) that particular plant (father) just wasn’t that hot. I tried leaving them on the counter for a week, thinking the capsaicin needed time to spread throughout the pepper. That didn’t work either. Thanks for your help!
A: Hello Kevin:
Generally speaking, the larger the pepper, the milder it is, so if your jalapeños are rather large, like 3 inches or more, they will be mild. Over the past few years, chile breeders have been breeding milder jalapeños for the nachos market. Too much watering does not cause mildness, but withholding water until the plant wilts slightly can stress the plants and make the pods hotter. Heat is mostly genetic, but environmental factors play a role as well. Leaving them on the counter won’t work, but crushing them by rubbing them hard with your palm on a counter top can spread the capsaicin around. Also, you could chop them and mix them with chopped serranos to bring up the heat.