Summer is for red, ripe, juicy tomatoes. It is also for PEPPERS: hot, mild, red, green, yellow, round, long, thin and fat.
Most commonly found at the Farmers’ Market are bell peppers and jalapeño peppers with an occasional poblano and pimiento.
Vendors cater to the tastes of their customers which tends to run from mild to no heat at all. However, for the fearless there are breads, jams, jellies, salsas and cookies are available with hotter peppers such as habañeros (also called Scotch bonnets).
My friend Martin Simon, an expert on peppers, makes his own chipotle powder by smoking and then drying red jalapeños He uses these peppers to make chipotle en adobo, chipotle salsa and chipotle jam. He asked our vendors why they didn’t have red jalapeños. He found out that there is some confusion about color, appearance and ripeness.
First, all peppers will turn red as they ripen. Bell peppers, however, will be all dried out and/or rotten by the time this happens. So they are ripe when green, firm, and fragrant. The lovely red, orange and yellow bell peppers we see have been bred to become these bright colors. When buying these colored peppers, again choose firm fleshed peppers.
Jalapeños do turn red when ripe. Both the green and red phases of ripeness tend to develop brown vertical lines along the pepper. These are NOT indicators of insect damage, chemicals, or rot. The lines are indicators of ripeness.
Jalapeños are sometimes deceiving in how hot they can be; they can be nearly as mild as a bell or “blow your socks off” hot. There is no foolproof way for us to determine heat except taste. Chemically there is a rating system called the Scoville Scale which measures the amount of capsaicin in a pepper. Having said that, the pointy tip of the jalapeño is the mildest part of the pepper. Taste near the stem for more accurate heat information.
To reduce some of the heat in peppers, strip the seeds out along with the membrane that connects them to the inside of the pepper. The seeds themselves have no heat but the membrane is the source of the heat. Wear gloves to take seed/membranes out of peppers. FYI, if you choose NOT to wear gloves, do NOT touch your eyes, nose, or privates.
Martin needs about 50 lbs of red jalapeños for drying. Respond to this website if you are able to let the green jalapeños ripen to red. I will let Martin know so he can buy them from you.