Jalapenos have thinner walls and less water content than their cousins, bell peppers, but they're still perishable. You can pickle them, can them in a pressure canner or freeze them, but for fresh use, put them in the fridge. Many commercially grown jalapenos have been waxed to preserve them. Scrub this wax off before you eat the peppers.
At the grocery store or farmer's market, retailers sometimes store jalapenos in unrefrigerated boxes or bins, but the jalapenos are usually refrigerated until they're put out. Like almost all fresh produce, jalapenos last longer and taste fresher if they're refrigerated. Wrap those fiery peppers in paper towels or place them in a paper bag as soon as you get home from the store. Stow them in a refrigerator set at 40 degrees Fahrenheit and use them within one week, according to the USDA.
Refrigerating doesn't improve the quality of fresh produce, so it's important to start with the freshest jalapenos you can find. Look for jalapenos that have firm, glossy skin with no cracks or signs of decay. Pass by those with black or soft spots. Jalapenos are usually green, although they may sometimes ripen to red. They're smaller than other peppers -- typically 2 inches or less in length.
Nice and Dry
You know you need to refrigerate fresh jalapenos, but you might be wondering about dried jalapenos. The same rules apply when buying dried jalapenos -- buy only the best quality. The vegetables should be free of soft spots or signs of mold. Their skins may be wrinkled slightly, but they shouldn't be cracked or split open. You can store dried jalapenos in a cool, dark, dry pantry for up to four months or store them in the refrigerator for even longer.
Never wash jalapenos before you put them in the fridge because the moisture can promote mold. Instead, wash them right before you use them. Remember, jalapenos contain volatile oils that not only add a dash of heat to food, but can burn your eyes, skin and nasal membranes. Wear gloves when washing and handling jalapenos and avoid rubbing your eyes.
Julie Christensen is a food writer, caterer, and mom-chef. She's the creator of MarmaladeMom.org, dedicated to family fun and delicious food, and released a book titled "More Than Pot Roast: Fast, Fresh Slow Cooker Recipes."