So, you have a green thumb and a love for pickled Jalapeños. Naturally, you might be wondering if you can grow Jalapeños from your pickled Jalapeño seeds. After all, the pickling liquid preserves the Jalapeños, so presumably, it does the same for the seeds.
You can’t grow Jalapeños from pickled Jalapeño seeds as the pickling process has likely killed the seeds. The high vinegar content, the fact that seeds will have been soaked in liquid for a long time, and exposure to excessive heat are all reasons why pickled Jalapeño seeds may be damaged and cannot be used to grow Jalapeños.
Let’s take a closer look at the issues in more detail and consider any circumstances that may make it possible to grow Jalapeños from pickled Jalapeño seeds.
Can You Grow Jalapeños from Pickled Jalapeño Seeds?
Given the pickling process, it’s unlikely that you can grow Jalapeños from pickled Jalapeño seeds. You’ll see why in the following sections, starting with an explanation of what pickling is.
What is Pickling?
Pickling is a way to preserve foods, preventing harmful bacteria from developing. It does this by reducing the pH level to below 4.5 which is a level below most dangerous bacteria can survive. There are two common pickling processes: one uses vinegar, while the other involves fermentation using brine.
Vinegar pickling is the type of pickling you’re probably most familiar with. In this type of pickling, it’s the vinegar’s acidity that does the job of bringing down the pH level.
Store-bought jars of vinegar-pickled food will also have undergone a heat-treatment process called pasteurization. This step kills off bacteria that cause spoilage and increases shelf life.
The other pickling method, fermentation, has the same preservative effect. However, there’s no acid in the brine solution to start off with. Instead, a chemical reaction between the brine, bacteria, and sugar in the food produces lactic acid. It’s this lactic acid that reduces the pH level and inhibits harmful bacteria growth.
There’s no pasteurization step in the fermenting process. That’s why you’ll find fermented pickled products in the refrigerator at your grocery store.
This brief video highlights the differences between these two pickling methods:
Why Can’t You Grow Peppers from Pickled Pepper Seeds?
There are a few reasons you probably can’t grow peppers from pickled pepper seeds:
- For vinegar-pickled peppers, the high vinegar content creates an unfriendly environment for seeds.
- Your pickled Jalapeño seeds have probably been soaking in the pickling liquid for too long to still be able to germinate.
- The heat from the pasteurization of vinegar-pickled Jalapeños will also have likely killed the seeds’ ability to germinate.
- The seeds in green peppers may not have developed enough to be capable of germinating.
Let’s now look at each of these reasons in more detail.
The Vinegar in the Pickling Process Prevents the Seed from Germinating
The vinegar in the pickling process plays a part in preventing seed germination. Vinegar is acidic, with a pH level of around 2.4, depending on the vinegar. Jalapeño peppers grow in soil nearer to neutral on the pH scale. So, it stands to reason that putting Jalapeño seeds in a highly acidic medium like vinegar won’t do them any good.
The amount of vinegar in the pickling solution the seeds have been soaking in is an issue. The pickling liquid could contain as much as 50 percent vinegar, which may have a negative impact on seed germination.
While researchers have found soaking maize seeds in a vinegar solution helped with germination, the solution was about 2.5 percent vinegar. Another study found that a 10 percent vinegar solution stopped eggplant seeds from germinating. However, lower levels of vinegar concentrations can help with germination.
In contrast, a carrot seed study found that carrot seeds treated with a solution of up to 10 percent acetic acid, the acid present in vinegar, still germinated. However, a 20 percent acetic acid solution prevented seed germination.
Of course, all seeds are different, but these studies suggest the vinegar content in your pickled Jalapeños will prevent the seeds from germinating since the pickling liquid is about 20 percent vinegar.
The Time Spent in the Pickling Liquid May Prevent Seed Germination
You may have heard that soaking plant seeds in water can help promote germination. However, the soaking time is usually only for a few hours to a few days. In the first two studies mentioned above, the soaking periods were five days and six hours respectively. In the third study, the soaking time was only ten minutes.
The seeds in your store-bought pickled peppers may have been soaking in the pickling liquid for several days, weeks, to months. So, your pickled pepper seeds may have been exposed to liquid well beyond recommended levels.
The Heat from Pasteurization May Prevent the Seeds from Germinating
As you’ve seen above, part of the vinegar pickling process includes pasteurization. Generally, manufacturers use a temperature of around 165 degrees Fahrenheit (74 degrees Celsius).
For most fruits and vegetables, exposure to temperatures above 95 degrees Fahrenheit (35 degrees Celsius) can kill seeds. So, the likelihood of a pepper seeds surviving pasteurization is slim to none.
The Seeds from Pickled Green Jalapeños May Not Be Viable
Most pickled Jalapeños are green, and green Jalapeños aren’t fully ripened. Of course, they’re ripe enough to eat, and most growers harvest Jalapeños when green. Go to most grocery stores, and you’d be hard-pressed to find one selling red Jalapeños. Fully ripened Jalapeños are red, and these are the ones with the most viable seeds.
So, if your pickled Jalapeños are green, the fruit probably won’t have ripened enough for the seeds to be viable.
The ripening process that turns the pepper from green to red is gradual, and there are various shades of green, even black, that a Jalapeño will go through, from light to dark. The darker the green, the further it is along the ripening process.
You can see Jalapeños laid out to show their various color stages in this video:
Can You Grow Any Peppers from Pickled Pepper Seeds?
The same issues are likely to arise for any pickled peppers, whether Jalapeños or other types. However, it’s not necessarily a lost cause. It seems logical that if you remove one or all the issues above, your pickled seeds might germinate.
So, you may have viable seeds if:
- Your pickled peppers were pickled by fermentation. Lactic acid bacteria are said to promote seed germination. One of those lactic acid bacteria in fermented pickles is Lactobacillus Plantarum. Researchers in a 2013 study soaked tomato seeds in a Lactobacillus Plantarum solution and found that it improved seed germination, so the same may apply to pepper seeds.
- Your pickled pepper seeds have been soaking in the pickling liquid for only a few hours. This isn’t likely for store-bought pickled peppers. However, if you did your own pickling and just forgot to save some of the seeds, remove them as soon as possible. In the 2013 Lactobacillus Plantarum study, the seeds were soaked for only six hours. In the studies mentioned earlier, the soaking times were between six hours and five days.
- Your pickled peppers are red. Although green pickled peppers are more common, it’s possible to buy red pickled peppers, too. Since the peppers are red, they will have been fully ripened. So, the seeds will probably have matured to a viable state for germination.
- You pickled the peppers yourself using a process that didn’t involve heat treatment. The fermentation method above is one such process, but you can also pickle peppers with vinegar without heat-treating. This video is an example of an easy way to make pickled peppers in this way:
If one or more of these apply, your pickled pepper seeds may have a chance of germinating and you might be able to grow a pepper from those seeds.
The chances that you can grow Jalapeños from pickled Jalapeño seeds are slim. However, if your pickled peppers are red, pickled by fermentation, and/or haven’t been soaking in the pickling liquid for more than a few hours, the seed may still be viable and you might have some luck in growing peppers from those seeds.