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fendi_pilot

Chili Pepper Fraud ?

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Ok, so I've shopped at Whole Foods in nyc and charleston, as well as local grocery stores in the south carolina area and have noticed that what now passes for a jalapeno or habenero pepper now tasted like a bell pepper ( incidentally, the only food i really strongly dislike, i even prefer tripe when done right ). so while it looks like the real thing, it has almost no heat at all and none of the true flavor of the original pepper.

Am perhaps being punished for my dislike of bell peppers or is this something that other people have noticed ? and also why / how is this happening ? While I have already planted seedlings of actual ( i really hope) peppers, I think this is really depressing and suspicious and you know pepper plants take a while to grow.

Any other takers ?

Thanks.

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That seems bizarre to me. I regularly buy jalapeños, serranos, habañeros, et al at Whole Foods (and other area markets) and haven't noticed this. I can't really see the upside for WF in any consumer conspiracy, since anyone buying those items isn't looking for a crunchy sweet bell.


Chris Amirault

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I've both heard of and experienced first-hand the "dumbing-down" of jalapenos (though I can't speak to habaneros). Pretty much every time I buy a jalapeno in the grocery store, it has no appreciable heat, and tastes mostly like a bell pepper. The explanation I've heard is that jalapenos for the grocery store market have been bred to have lower capsaicin levels in order to cater to the tastes of the mainstream population, and that if you want "real" jalapenos, your best bet is an ethnic market. Unfortunately, I live in Canada, where there is no appreciable Latin-American population, so I haven't been able to test this theory.


Matthew Kayahara

Kayahara.ca

@mtkayahara

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Well, I definitely don't know why this would happen and it seems even more suspicious that it's happened consistently with me in different areas of the country over the past couple months. I am stopping by WF tomorrow actually and will boldly take a bite of a habanero and when / if i am not on fire i intend to seek some answers. The last peppers i have all bought at supermarkets have had this - a latin market seems like a good choice as i would be very surprised if those customers would not be like "wtf ?"

still curious if others have had this happen on the east coast or elsewhere

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I've found jalapenos to vary wildly in heat level -- this in all kinds of markets (in San Francisco and the Atlanta area, mostly). The explanation that I've read is that capsaicin levels are dependent on soil conditions and moisture levels, and since those vary, the level of heat in these chiles varies as well. It might be that growers and buyers take than into consideration and try for milder heat levels. But I'd still never say that jalapenos taste like bell peppers, even when they're mild.

Serranos and habaneros, in my experience, seem to be more even in their heat level.

Another thing to keep in mind is that if you eat a lot of capsaicin (in chiles) for a long period of time, your tolerance for it grows. It might be that your tolerance has increased and so the chiles that you used to experience as hot no longer seem so.

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Yes, I am familiar with the heat levels varying some. And even though I got down and dirty in thailand and vietnam this fall, this can be seen strictly in a taste paradigm though.(i still have some hot sauce i made this summer that kicks my ass in a good way of course.)

If you gut the chili the flesh still lacks that unique jalapeno or unique habanero flavor. These peppers in question taste like a dull bell pepper (without the full flavor of a real one). I often use chilis for flavor and try and keep the heat component minimal or background so these peppers have been a complete loss.


Edited by fendi_pilot (log)

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Folk wisdom around here has it that the "heat" in chiles varies according to the wetness of the ground it was grown in. Maybe WF is buying from irrigation farms?


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I've both heard of and experienced first-hand the "dumbing-down" of jalapenos (though I can't speak to habaneros). Pretty much every time I buy a jalapeno in the grocery store, it has no appreciable heat, and tastes mostly like a bell pepper. The explanation I've heard is that jalapenos for the grocery store market have been bred to have lower capsaicin levels in order to cater to the tastes of the mainstream population, and that if you want "real" jalapenos, your best bet is an ethnic market. Unfortunately, I live in Canada, where there is no appreciable Latin-American population, so I haven't been able to test this theory.

This is true, and you can blame the good folks at Texas A&M for the great deception:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TAM_Mild_Jalape%C3%B1o

Fortunately for me I have easy access to the real deal at any number of fondas in my area. I just wish that the grocery stores would clearly mark the chiles as the 'Mild' version so you would know what you're getting ahead of time. Maybe if your store has a knowledgable produce manager they can confirm if they carry the TAM Milds or proper jalapenos.


aka Michael

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I seem to recall reading that peppers develop their heat in reaction to stress. Lack of water and high ambient and ground temperatures stress the plant and the plant, therefore, produces hotter peppers.

Perhaps because there's a greater demand for peppers these days, more commercial growing techniques are used, providing more water to quicken the pepper plants growth and, as a consequence, the peppers produced are less stressed and less hot.

In addition, there are peppers that are bred to be milder. Like you, I've found the jalapeños and serranos (especially those used in some commercial products like canned chipotles and the peppers used in some salsa) to be lacking in heat and flavor.

Article discussing the thread subject


Edited by Shel_B (log)

 ... Shel


 

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I've both heard of and experienced first-hand the "dumbing-down" of jalapenos (though I can't speak to habaneros). Pretty much every time I buy a jalapeno in the grocery store, it has no appreciable heat, and tastes mostly like a bell pepper. The explanation I've heard is that jalapenos for the grocery store market have been bred to have lower capsaicin levels in order to cater to the tastes of the mainstream population, and that if you want "real" jalapenos, your best bet is an ethnic market. Unfortunately, I live in Canada, where there is no appreciable Latin-American population, so I haven't been able to test this theory.

Try the Caribbean markets in Kensington area in Toronto.


Darienne

learn, learn, learn...

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I have experienced this with jalapenos as well. Typically I have seen this during off season production ie winter when I assume even Florida is cool enough to not produce the same peppers as the summer heat. It has been enough that I have skipped over to other pepper varieties in the mean time. Also, Asian markets don't seem to have this issue. Their peppers taste like peppers and they have more varieties than mainstream markets.

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Am perhaps being punished for my dislike of bell peppers or is this something that other people have noticed ? and also why / how is this happening ? While I have already planted seedlings of actual ( i really hope) peppers, I think this is really depressing and suspicious and you know pepper plants take a while to grow.

Another vote for Latin market peppers. Peppers at the gringo grocery do not look or smell "right" to me. So I suspect hybridization. I can't speak for taste, because I buy my peppers at my local Latin market -- where they're always good, and always from Mexico. I also grow my own, but the pepper bushes are in growth mode right now, not fruiting.

One question -- what is it about bell peppers that you don't like? To me, that's kind of like saying that you like parsnips but not carrots. I've read that a LOT of people don't like bell peppers. Just wondering why.


Who cares how time advances? I am drinking ale today. -- Edgar Allan Poe

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Scoop, I certainly can't speak for everyone, but to me, bell peppers have a certain unplesant bitterness, especially the green ones, and I find that any bell pepper, event the ripe red ones, give me dreadful indigestion if they are not peeled of the heavy skin. I can taste them for days. I enjoy roasted peppers, and love pimento cheese, but can NOT eat peppers raw. :wacko:


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This has been the case here in all mainline grocery stores for about five years. Not like a bell pepper, but exceptionally mild. I buy mine instead in Hispanic or Asian markets. These bred-to-be-mild jalapenos are also what's used in many, if not most, Mexican-American/Tex-Mex restaurants; you could load a quarter of a pound of sliced jalapenos on an order of nachos and not notice much heat in many of these places.

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I know exactly what you are talking about. Because of this I buy my chiles at a local Asian market (when I buy them at all). For the last several years I've grown my own. In high summer when it's hot the plants produce hundreds of chiles. (I'm talking about five plants.)

I freeze the surplus for use throughout the rest of the year. Chiles freeze really well. Lay them out on a baking sheet and place in the freezer so they freeze individually. Then pop them frozen into a ziploc bag and keep the bag in the freezer.

The nurseries in the LA Area sell little chile plants such as Thai Dragon, Serrano, and Cayenne that produce the real thing. If little plants are not available in your area you can order seeds from Evergreen Seeds: Chiles

Good luck! I know how frustrating bland chiles can be.

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This has nothing to do with seasons or growing conditions but is due to one thing only as already correctly Posted, its the Texas A&M, usually called a TAM that is dumbing down all our hot peppers. They started with the poblano where now most poblanos rarely have any heat and have worked thier way to the jalapeno, where some of them might as well be bell peppers. Once in a while I can find some jalapenos with heat at SuperMercado but poblanos with heat are in the past!-Dick

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I gave up buying Jalapenos a couple of years ago for that very reason. Luckily most places sell the smaller Serranos alongside the Jalapenos and they (so far) have kept a pretty decent heat level and are now my go-to for a relatively hot green chili.

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Jalapenos for the last ten years at least in northern CA have been insipid. Even Serranos at the markets are lackluster. At the Berkeley Farmers market for the last few years I have been buying Pimiento de Padron peppers, which are becoming more common, at least around here. The heat typically varies wildly, with most individual peppers being on the sweet side, but about 10 or 20% in each bunch having a swift kick. There is also one Latino vendor with great Poblanos. In June and July they are flavorful but pretty mild, then they get hotter into late September. We're not talking Hatch NM hot, but definitely not bland. Most grocery-store poblanos seem to remain mild all season long.

You can still get scorchingly hot chile in New Mexico; friends of mind brought back, roasted and froze, a large quantity of Hatch peppers and, to my now subdued CA palate, any more than a teaspoon would render a large pot of beans inedible. I don't even remember the typical Hatch chile when I lived in NM being as hot as this batch. I must be turning into a wimp.

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Switch to serranos. The Food Police haven't dumbed them down (yet).


 

“Peter: Oh my god, Brian, there's a message in my Alphabits. It says, 'Oooooo.'

Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.”

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Are you guys who are complaining about no heat in jalapenos cutting out the seeds and membranes?

 

Tonight I made a pico de gallo/salsa to go with warmed tortilla chips with one tomato, one large (4" long) jalapeno from the chain grocery, lots of cilantro and a little onion, salt and pepper. I cleaned out the seeds and membranes from half the pepper, but reserved them in case I wanted to add them after tasting more. I didn't need anymore heat, and the garbage disposal wound up getting the extra seeds and membranes.

 

Granted grocery store jalapenos are nowhere NEAR as hot as the ones I used to grow, but practically no one else but me could eat them.

 

I agree that grocery store peppers have become more tame over the years, but so has my aging self.  :smile:

 

I still love the flavor of jalapenos, and I find it quite different than sweet bells even when all the seeds and membranes are discarded.

 

We have a huge population of Latino immigrants in my area, and I shop at a chain that caters to them, so that might explain why the jalapenos I have access to still pack heat and flavor.


> ^ . . ^ <

 

 

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Rather than new pepper cultivars is it possible they've switched to hydroponically grown produce?  It's becoming more common and not always advertised as such.  If peppers produce flavour and heat from stress then the conditions of a hydroponic greenhouse, perfectly tailored to give maximum yield might produce some pretty insipid chillies. 

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if you look into a modern 'seed' catalogue, such as ' Totally Tomatoes '  there are cultivars of popular hot peppers,

 

ie jalapenos and serranos.   you pick a heat level and then go from them.  this has been developing for  years

 

I used to grow both J's and S's and one year both mild and hot versions of each.  under the same environment

 

they both did indeed come out mild and hot.

 

" White Bread " markets seem to buy the milder cultivars.  as I no longer grow peppers, I get mine at an indian market and they

 

tell you how hot they are.

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Rick Bayless said, years ago now, that the supermarket 'dumbing down' of Jalapenos has made them so inconsistent (and unreliable in terms of having any heat, or flavour really) that, unless you grow them yourself and know, he recommends Serranos as a replacement across the board 

 

 

I've not seen the issue with habaneros at all though.

They vary in terms of flavour (rather than heat), probably because of climate and shelf age, but they remain hot every time I see them.

there are some chiles that look like habs but are a mild variety.... but they're not true habaneros.

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The ones I got from the supermarket last night were definitely not without heat.  Even after two hours and washing my hands taking out my contact lenses was not fun.

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I buy Serranos most often if I'm looking for some heat with that green pepper flavor

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