I have a love-hate relationship with my garden. I love getting fresh vegetables and herbs out of it, but I hate the wildlife that think it’s their own personal salad bar. I find myself wondering whether it’s worth it to spend more on buying plants and soil than to just buy the tomatoes, greens, strawberries, and beans that seem to be animal and insect feed. Nevertheless, every spring I find myself excited to put plants in the ground, hoping for the best. Every summer I curse the squirrels who steal the mostly-ripe tomatoes, only to leave them half-eaten on the garden post.
But every year, my one big reward and treat is the hot peppers. No store-bought pepper begins to compare with the taste of a home-grown hot pepper. Even though copious amounts of hot sauce haven’t deterred those rodent beasts from scarfing up everything else I religiously spray, they have never touched a jalapeno or habanero. And as an added bonus, jalapeno plants have beautiful flowers and deep green leaves, so they would blend well in an ornamental garden. And have you ever heard of ‘National Leave Jalapenos on your Neighbor’s Porch’ day? No, because no one in their right mind would willingly share their yield!
My two favorite things to make with jalapenos are Roasted Jalapenos and Jalapeno Poppers, both of which are super simple to make. Just be sure that you either 1) don’t touch your face for like 3 hours after cutting them, or, 2) wear gloves. Actually, it’s not that bad to suffer from jalapeno juice in the eye, but, well, it can–and is best to be–avoided.
For both recipes, begin by cutting off the stem-end of the pepper, cutting it in half, and, if you have one, use the amazing multi-tasker strawberry huller (the utensil in the photo) to remove the seeds and veins. It also works well for bell peppers and removing the seeds from squash.
For Roasted Jalapenos, just roughly dice, coat in oil or Pam, and bake at 420 for 15-20 minutes, stirring once or twice, until they turn golden brown. These are great toppers for burgers, chili, and nachos. I, admittedly, even eat them plain. If I only have 1 or 2 of them, I spray each half, stick them directly on the oven rack with whatever I’m baking, and eat them plain. But I love hot stuff and I’m weird.
Jalapeno Poppers are my other favorite thing to make. If you really love the essence of a popper, it should be all about the jalapeno, not the deep-fried coating that almost completely obscures what little pepper flavor there is in the fast-food version. So for this much healthier version, I skip the coating, pinch on some vegan shredded cheddar cheese (don’t insult your fresh jalapeno by adding pepper jack cheese!), and bake on 420 for 15-20 minutes until the cheese is golden brown.
As you can see in the photo, I baked both recipes on the same tray. So if you only want a few poppers, you can do these at the same time. Both are super simple to make, and the poppers are much better and even less expensive than fast food. Since the pernicious vermin in the garden leave them alone, I get far more from the yield than the lesser versions would cost at the grocery store, and I’ll be in peppers well into October.