Gardening Rookie: A Hot Pepper Harvest

http://www.motherearthliving.com/In-the-Garden/Gardening-Rookie-Hot-Jalapeno-Pepper-Harvest.aspx

Jalapenos have taken over my countertop. For the first time this year, I decided to grow a jalapeno plant in a pot in front of my house. Whew boy, did it take off—with minimal attention on my part. The explosion of jalapenos I’ve been harvesting over the past month or two is terrific, but it also has me in a quandary. 

jalapenos
A jalapeno harvest is exciting—but it leaves the gardener wondering what to do with all the spicy little peppers once they’re picked. Photo By Julie Collins.

You see, I like a good jalapeno with a Mexican dish here and there. But I don’t eat them religiously. Most of the people I cook for can’t handle the heart-burning effects of peppers.

Still, I don’t want all these jalapenos to go to waste—so I’m looking for some ways to use or save them beyond chopping them up and adding them to recipes pronto.

fresh jalapenos
Jalapenos can be dried, frozen, pickled, preserved in olive oil, or smoked. Of course, making salsa and using them up in recipes are great options too. Photo By Julie Collins.

Here’s what I’m contemplating:

Drying

This looks like it’s a piece of cake. Just wash your jalapenos and let them dry, then place them on a plate or wire rack or string them up and hang them in a well-ventilated room. Wait several weeks and voila, you have dried jalapeno peppers for displaying or grinding.

Freezing

To save some of my crop for later, I might wash them and place them in a freezer in a two-pound freezer bag. You can skin or peel them, roast them, or chop them first if you like. (Odds are, when you thaw them out, they’ll be limp and squishy—but they’ll still taste fine.)

Pickling

I found a handy, relatively easy recipe for pickling jalapeno peppers courtesy of Lesley Cooks. 

Preserving with olive oil

I wouldn’t have thought to do this until I stumbled on the Jalapeno Madness website. You can preserve your spicy little friends by roasting the jalapenos in a broiler until the skins are bubbly and blackened, skinning them, cutting the flesh into strips, and adding the strips to a clean jar with enough olive oil to cover. If you make sure the lid is airtight and refrigerate them immediately, they should last for a week or more.

Smoking

Mother Earth News has a great story on how you can smoke jalapeno peppers in your own backyard. Why not try it this weekend?

Then again, maybe I’ll just head to the farmer’s market to round up the ingredients for salsa and make a few jars of it to share with family and friends. I’m also dying to try this Bacon Wrapped Jalapeno Thingies recipe from The Pioneer Woman. Maybe now’s the time, even if I am the only one in the family who will eat them?

What’s your favorite way to use your jalapeno harvest? I’d love some suggestions!

Warning: Remember to be careful when handling jalapeno peppers, because the oils in the peppers can burn your skin. Wear plastic gloves and, if your hands do touch the peppers, wash them immediately with soap and water.