Spice Up Your Home Meals with Serrano Pepper: Growing, Caring, and Harvesting

Some people love to eat spicy meals or dishes. When they cook food for themselves or their families, they follow spicy recipes (and sometimes even elevate them) or use ingredients that will heat up a dish.

If you’re looking to grow a spice or a vegetable in your home garden, consider planting serrano peppers. This flavorful chili pepper will surely add a lot of fire to your dishes and satisfy your taste buds if you’re a fan of spicy foods.

Serrano Pepper Plant History

As Mexico is one of the countries with the spiciest foods, no wonder the mountainous region of Puebla and Hidalgo is the home of the serrano pepper. The Spanish word ‘’sierra’’ is translated as ‘’mountain range’’, which is how this pepper got its name.

From ancient times, Mexico has had a long history of making serrano pepper recipes, mostly used in vegan diets. In Mexico, they’re considered the second most favorite chili pepper after the jalapenos. Apart from Mexico, they’re also used in the US and in Southeast Asian cuisine in Thai recipes. Nowadays, approximately 2.33% of restaurants have them included in their menus.

What Are Serrano Peppers?

Photo by Wxmom via Flickr Creative Commons

This serrano pepper is essentially the tinier version of the jalapeño pepper. This pepper is incredibly spicy. When you look at it on the chili heat scale, serrano peppers have a Scoville rating of 10,000 to 23,000 units. They are a fantastic addition to relishes, sauces, salsas or any recipe that could benefit from a spicy kick.

On top of the delicious flavor and intense heat of the serrano pepper, this particular pepper is healthy. It’s high in dietary fiber, minerals and vitamins. What’s more, it’s low in fat, which is perfect if you’re trying to lose weight.

Serrano peppers contain about 3.7 grams of dietary fiber per 100-gram serving. Dietary fiber helps slow the rate of the body’s absorption of sugar and lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels. You also get good amounts of magnesium, iron, vitamin B6, vitamin C and vitamin A when you add serrano peppers to your diet. As for fat and calorie content, this pepper has only 34 calories and 0.4 grams of fat.

About Serrano Pepper Plant

To grow serrano pepper in your backyard, you must learn the basics about this incredible plant.

Though tinier plants are more common, serrano pepper plants can grow up to five feet tall. They’re highly productive plants. This means that a single plant can hold up to 50 pepper pods simultaneously.

Nutritional Information Of Serrano Pepper

Wondering if the serrano pepper is healthy? Let’s go over some serrano pepper nutrition facts below. A cup of serrano pepper contains a good amount of nutrients. However, you probably won’t eat more than one teaspoon. One cup of serrano pepper can satisfy your daily Vitamin C, potassium, copper, and manganese dose. It also contains 1.8g of proteins. 

Serrano peppers also provide 7g of carbohydrates (3.88g fiber, 4.02g natural sugars), 0.5g of fat, and 10.5 mg of sodium per cup. If you’re a spicy food lover, count yourself lucky – the serrano pepper calories add up to 33.6 calories per cup. Besides these, serrano peppers are a source of magnesium, folate, vitamin A, Vitamin K, Vitamin E, zinc, iron, calcium, phosphorus, selenium, and choline.

Serrano pepper is usually used in small amounts because it adds a strong flavor to your dish. Considering everything, serrano peppers are not a large source of nutrients but can still provide you with just the right amount of vitamins and minerals.

Serrano Pepper Plant Varieties

So, what is a serrano pepper? Surprisingly enough, it’s considered to be a fruit. You can find the serrano pepper plant in green, yellow, brown, and red. Their color depends on the level of ripeness. However, they’re mostly used in their infancy when green and ripe. Based on their ripeness, their flavors will also differ. 

So, how hot is a serrano pepper? The serrano pepper hotness ranges between 10,000 and 23,000 Scoville. The serrano red pepper tends to be slightly spicier, but the green one is much crispier. The spicy serrano pepper plant can be found in wide different varieties. 

Serrano Balin

Belonging to the Solanaceae family, this pepper is characterized by small white flowers and smooth green leaves. It’s medium hot in flavor, so consuming is not unbearable. The plant is normally easy to grow but requires the right amount of daylight and moisture. 

Serrano Del Sol

The serrano del sol ripens from green to orange and then red when mature. These plants are known to grow twice as large as the original serrano pepper size and are usually 7-8 cm long. Because they have such a specific flavor, they’re mostly used in salsas and sauces. They’re ideal for cultivation since they’re tolerant to cooler temperatures. 

Serrano Fire

Regardless of its name, this plant is medium-hot in taste with medium-thick flesh. Same as the other ones, it grows from green to red. It’s characterized by frizzy green foliage and white flowers. Like the mulberry tree, they require as much sun as possible, so it’s best to plant these serrano pepper seeds during spring. 

Serrano Giant

Twice as large as the original serrano pepper, this plant’s fruit grows up to 5 inches long. Despite its size, it has the same flavor, medium heat, a Scoville rating of 10,000 to 30,000, and thick flesh. You can grow them both in a pot or in the ground. 

Serrano Purple 

The Serrano Purple isn’t only milder in taste and more beautiful to look at! The plant’s purple flowers are why it’s also decorative. It’s a bit longer than the original one and can grow up to 2.5 feet. It ripens to purple before turning red. The serrano purple’s heat levels range from 8,000-22,000 SHUs.

Serrano Tampiqueño

The Serrano Tampiqueño has a variety of uses, and you can find it in soups, salsas, and pico de gallo. It’s one of the hottest serrano plants, at least 4-5 times hotter than the jalapeno. The plant can grow to approximately 2-3 feet and belongs to the Annuum species. 

Serrano Hidalgo

These plants are ideal for homemade sauces, salsas, and fresh salads. They’re still hotter than jalapenos but have a fruitier taste and thinner flesh. They can grow up to 3 feet tall and are considered very productive. They’re usually picked green, but can also present a delicious delight if left to turn red. 

Serrano Huasteco

This plant is one of the rarest of the serrano family. They’ll offer you just the right amount of heat but are much sweeter than the original ones. Pepper lovers tend to slice it and serve it on pizza. These are the most frequently consumed serrano peppers. However, the serrano chili pvyres, serrano holly berry, serrano visa, and the serrano long can also be found.

Tips for Growing Serrano Peppers

Let’s first establish the growing conditions for the serrano pepper. This pepper enjoys sunny garden areas with excellent drainage and loamy, deep, and rich soil.

Serrano peppers like lots of organic matter in the soil. Just make sure that the soil doesn’t contain too much nitrogen. Excess nitrogen can make the serrano pepper plant grow too quickly, making it less productive and more prone to diseases and pests.

When planting serrano peppers, you can purchase plants from a nursery or grow them from seed. Ideally, you should buy the seed from a trusted nursery or a small farm vendor. When you purchase serrano peppers from big box stores, diseases can spread quickly due to the large numbers grown in industrial greenhouses.

Remember to plant your serrano peppers 12 to 24 inches apart. If you grow them in containers, make sure the pots are at least one gallon in size to accommodate the plant’s growth.

Serrano Pepper Plant Care

Serrano peppers are heavy feeders, so make sure that you use a balanced vegetable fertilizer for your soil. Given how these chili peppers like to feed voraciously, you’ll need to reapply fertilizer once a month. Water the soil properly after each feeding.

Throughout the serrano pepper plant’s growing season, ensure you water it frequently. Do deep watering once every three or four days. During extremely hot days, make sure you check the soil often. You’ll notice that the top layer of the soil will often be dry. However, if the soil is moist about 1.5 inches down, hold off on another deep watering.

Harvesting Serrano Peppers

You can usually harvest serrano peppers within three months of planting. You can pick your peppers early in the growing period when they’re immature and purple or green. The flavor will improve as they mature.

The perfect time for harvesting is when the serrano peppers are orange, yellow or red — or full-sized but still green.

Use proper hand-pruning techniques to remove the pepper from the stem when harvesting. Simply yanking them off can hurt the plant and could stop it from producing another round of serrano peppers.

Serrano Pepper Companion Plants

People often tend to grow peppers, but did you know your serrano pepper garden likes companions? Companion plants can serve as great protectors. They lure pests away, attract beneficial insects, and maximize your garden space. Be careful, though – you must know exactly which plants can complement your peppers:

  • Lettuce: Great for adding harvest and filling up those spaces between peppers. 
  • Onions: Since onions aren’t so spacious, they make great companions for your peppers. They’re very useful when it comes to scaring away insect pests. 
  • Carrots: Growing these with your peppers will help you control weeds in the garden but also enrich the soil.
  • Corn: They tend to grow particularly tall, with the rainbow corn plant having the ability to reach up to 9 feet. Because of their height, these plants are a shield for protecting your peppers against sunlight. 
  • Radishes: Great for maximizing your garden space, and also give you quick crops. 
  • Spinach: One of the most beneficial companion plants for serrano peppers. They’re great at controlling weeds and short, so they won’t compete with taller plants. 
  • Basil: We all know basil’s sweet and savory taste, but growing it next to your peppers will give them some of this flavor. Most importantly, we know how irritating pests can be, and basil is the best at luring them away.
  • Chives: Similar to basil, chives can fight insects and aphids all the while enhancing the flavor of your peppers.
  • Chard. These plants can protect your serrano peppers from wind and sunlight. And what’s best – they’re easy to grow.
  • Okra: Similar to chard, the okra can protect your peppers from extreme heat and against strong winds and pests.
  • Leeks: They’re especially beneficial for scaring away carrot flies but can also help fill in the empty spots between the peppers in your garden.
  • Buckwheat: As a pepper’s companion, buckwheat is useful for attracting many beneficial insects.

Storing And Preserving Serrano Pepper

First and foremost, the serrano pepper should always be crispy and shiny. If not, feel free to throw it away. Any signs of black patches mean the pepper is not suitable for eating. Usually, the thick-fleshed serranos have a longer lifespan than thin-fleshed ones. 

Their life expectancy, if kept at room temperature, is 3-5 days. But, if you store them in the fridge, they’ll probably last up to 2 weeks. Finally, by freezing them, you may be able to preserve them for around 6 months. Below, we’ll look at some of the best ways of extending the shelf life of your peppers:

Freeze Your Serrano Peppers

The freezing method benefits many fruits and vegetables, not only serrano peppers. If you, by any chance, have a large amount of crop, this is your ideal way of storing these spicy peppers. 

However, you have to be very careful. Before storing them in the freezer, wash them clean and completely dry them afterward. If not washed properly, the taste and quality of the peppers might be ruined. While not mandatory, you can also peel or remove the stems. Once you’re done, store them in freezer bags while removing as much air as possible. 

They’re best to consume in a six-month time frame. The longer you wait, the higher the chances of your peppers losing their unique taste and freshness. 

Dry Your Serrano Peppers

Drying your pepper is another great way to keep them alive. Dried peppers have intensified flavor and are also not susceptible to moisture. This can extend their lifespan for a few months. The best thing is that dried peppers have many applications, which can be used for sauces, spices, stews, and soups. 

Before drying them, wash them thoroughly and remove the stems and cores. There are a few ways you can dry your serrano peppers:

  • Dry them out in the sun: The right temperature is around 90°F. Once you’ve rinsed them properly, place them on a suitable screen tray and cover them with a lightweight cloth. When dried, store them in freezer bags or sealed jars.
  • Dry them in the oven: This is an easy method, but not ideal during summer. First, set your oven at 140°F. Then, place your peppers on a drying tray, and don’t forget to leave the oven door slightly open. The procedure might take up to 24 hours. Store your peppers in freezer bags or sealed jars. 
  • Use an electric food dehydrator: This is the most convenient thing to do because the drying of the peppers won’t take more than 12 hours. Once you’ve washed them, cut them into discs and place them on the dehydrator trays. And most importantly, store your peppers in freezer bags or sealed jars when fully dried.

Can Your Serrano Peppers

Start with boiling water in a large pot. Once boiled. chop your serrano peppers according to the size of your jars, and add garlic cloves to every jar. On the side, prepare a mixture of water, salt, vinegar, and sugar, and boil it. When done, pour the mixture in the jars and seal it tightly. You can refrigerate them once they’re cooled down. 

Health Benefits Of Eating A Serrano Pepper

The serrano pepper benefits also cover your health. They’re extremely hot, but their spiciness will produce positive health effects for those who can handle the heat. They contain dihydrocapsaicin, which can act as a home remedy and is often used in Chinese medicine, and capsaicin, which can boost vascular and metabolic health. 

A serrano pepper can also boost your immune system because it’s extremely rich in vitamin C. It can also serve as a pain reliever, especially in threatening chronic pains such as bone cancer pain, shingles, and migraines. Contrary to popular beliefs that chili peppers can cause ulcers, serrano peppers can speed up the process of healing.

What’s even crazier is, serrano peppers can potentially prevent some types of cancer. The level of capsaicin it contains is thought to slow the growth of cancer cells and help patients fight pancreatic, breast, and bone cancer.

Moreover, it can help with blood sugar regulation, possibly lowering the overproduction of insulin in women and increasing glucose tolerance in men. Serrano peppers can also protect people against heart diseases by preventing the contraction of arteries and even aiding in treating inflammatory bowel disease. 

What Can You Cook with Serrano Peppers?

There are dozens of serrano pepper recipes you can try. Here are a few dishes to whip up in your kitchen:

Persimmon Salsa

If you have a persimmon tree in your backyard, use persimmon and serrano pepper to make a delicious salsa. Simply mix persimmons, serrano chili pepper, onion, ginger, lime juice, mint and basil in a small bowl.  Then, season the mixture with salt and pepper.

Three-Pepper Guacamole

Want a spicier guac for your chips? Combine seeded serrano pepper, seeded jalapeño pepper, chipotle pepper, onion, cilantro, salt, pepper and garlic in a large bowl. Mash them all together with a fork. Then, stir in the tomatoes and avocados.

Melon with Serrano-Mint Syrup

Source: Pinterest

This recipe is unique, as the sweetness of the syrup and salad offers a nice contrast to the spiciness of the serrano pepper.

Using a small saucepan, bring serrano pepper, honey, lemon juice, water and sugar to boil for three to five minutes or until slightly thickened. Then, remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in lemon zest and mint. Once it cools, strain the syrup and discard the pepper, lemon zest and mint.

Using a large bowl, chop melons. Then, add the strained syrup to the bowl. Gently toss to coat.

If you’re looking to spice up your dishes, make sure that you use serrano pepper as one of your ingredients. Although they offer a decent kick of intensity, they’re not ridiculously spicy. They’re spicy enough to tickle your palate and add some life to a dish.

Bottom Line

All in all, the serrano pepper uses are numberless! Not only do they add that spicy flavor to your dishes, but they can also significantly impact your health and provide essential daily vitamins and minerals. They’re hotter than jalapenos, meaning they’re very tasty and enrich every dish. If you haven’t tried a serrano pepper, you’re missing out big time!

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