Thursday, July 1, 2010



Eating jalapenos is a bit of an adventure for some. Here in Texas, jalapenos are a staple of daily life.

Some of us even grow our own. Starting jalapeno peppers is pretty easy: Go to your grocery and buy one pepper. That’s right—one. Get a big, healthy-looking one: shiny, firm skin, bright green color. Don’t bother with the yellowish, anemic-looking ones.

Wash the pepper with a soapy sponge and rinse it well. Really, I'm not kidding. I could tell you it makes them less hot, but then I'd be lying through my teeth. Washing them just makes them cleaner, and you're about to eat this one, so trust me. Wash it.

Pat it dry with paper towels or a clean cloth, lop off the top and the tip (saving as much of it as you can), and slit the side with a sharp knife. Remove the membranes and the seeds and reserve the seeds. (Ha! Now you know where I'm going with this.) Those are to plant. The membranes go into your compost container. The edible parts of the top (not the stem or the sepals), the tip, and the ‘shell’ of the pepper get chopped fine and put into a sandwich zipper-closure bag, and popped into the freezer for use whenever you choose. I vote for 'now.'

Now simply plant the seeds in your usual flat/half quart milk container/rusty-old pan-with-holes, any and all covered-by-bits-of-coffee-filter-paper-towel-or-rag-filled-with-potting-soil, and covered with between a sprinkle and 1/8” potting soil, and watered daily. Put it onto a sunny window sill like you always do. You can also use empty egg cartons with the tops cut off and plant one seed in each little module, but they dry out like mad, so be sure to keep them damp. Some people will tell you to plant two and kill the weak one when they get bigger, but that sounds mean. I like to give everybody a fair chance. Some of my weakest seedlings have turned out to be the most fruitful grown plants. Let 'em live. If they want to die, they'll let you know: they'll do it.

Pretty soon, you’ll see the sharp little green leaves coming up, and they grow very fast. They look great. When they get too big to stay where they are (when they have their second set of leaves), simply pot them up into clean, empty vegetable cans/foam plastic cups/little pots (with the holes, the coffee filters, etc., see my previous posts), fill them with good potting soil or good garden soil, and make a hole in the middle.

Prick out the plants with a popsicle stick, a chopstick, or what have you and--lifting them only by a leaf--transfer them one by one, each to its own new pot.

NEVER, ever, pick up a plant by the stem—if you injure a leaf, you lose a leaf; if you injure a stem, there goes the entire plant.

Also, NEVER let the roots stay in the air; keep them covered with soil until you can transfer them. Tuck them in snugly, at the same level in the soil they were before, water well, and keep in light but not sun for about 12 hours. Once they’re settled, you can put them in bright sunlight, little by little; they love it! And you 'll be harvesting your own jalapenos in no time!

Want to know a Mexican “not-so-secret?” Good homemade salsa is not so hard to make if you have grown your own tomatoes and jalapenos! Here’s how I do it:


6--8 ripe, firm, Roma-style tomatoes (plum type)
1 large onion
2-6 nice big jalapeno peppers (depending on how hot you like it)
¼ c chopped fresh cilantro


Peel the onion. Wash, rinse and dry the tomatoes and jalapenos. Chop everything fine and put it all in some pretty little serving dishes. Sometimes you can find ‘fun dishes’ that look like peppers. You want to put it out in several dishes, because I’ve seen guests just stand over a single bowl of salsa scarfing it up as fast as they could, and nobody else could even get close.

If you scatter it around the room in different dishes, at least other people have a fighting chance. It helps to put on some good “salsa music” while you’re making and serving this, just to get into the mood, and be sure you buy a couple of big bags of tortilla chips so everyone can scoop up the delicious treat.

Invite a few friends in, set out the goodies, roll up the rugs in case you can't help dancing, and enjoy the evening. Ole’! Arriba!

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