Jalapeño Stretch Marks? All About Pepper Corking

Do you have stretch marks on your jalapeño peppers and wondering what that means? Are those pepper stretch marks good? Bad? Something in between? Those jalapeño lines you’re seeing are also called “pepper corking,” and they are a natural part of the aging process of hot peppers. Let’s cover all you need to know about it.

What is pepper corking? And what causes it?

Pepper corking is a condition that affects chili peppers as they age. They look like stretch lines running across your chili pepper. Chilies can have only a few or many of these stretch lines, depending on their climate and how long they’ve been maturing. The marks are caused by the pepper’s skin stretching and rupturing as the fruit inside has a growth spurt. This rapid growth can happen when the pepper is growing on the plant or even (to a lesser extent) after it has been picked.

Corking is related to the amount of water in the pepper. The stretch marks are common in chilies grown in wetter climates or that have received consistent (and plentiful) water from soaker hoses, garden sprinklers, and other watering tools. Pair that with an environment that also gets a reasonable amount of sunlight, and you have a recipe for fast fruit growth that puts pressure on the pepper’s exterior skin, causing the stretch lines.

Are peppers with stretch marks going bad?

Corking does not affect the taste, quality, or nutritional value of the pepper and is purely cosmetic. In fact, while many feel pepper corking makes for a visually sub-par fruit, quite a few people prefer the look of peppers with corking. It can add to the chili’s unique aesthetic appeal. There are some serious chili pepper beauties created from those stretch marks.

In short: Don’t throw out those corked peppers. They are just as tasty and nutritious as chilies without crack lines.

Pepper corking - jalapeno stretch marks
Jalapeño peppers with stretch marks, also known as corking

Are peppers with stretch marks hotter than those without them?

There is no scientific evidence to support the claim that peppers with stretch marks are hotter than those without them. However, many people believe this to be true, as the marks are often associated with more mature peppers. Mature peppers typically have a higher concentration of capsaicin, which is the compound that gives chili peppers their heat.

So while there is no guarantee that a pepper with corking is hotter, it’s a fair assumption to make.

Are corked peppers sweeter than normal peppers?

This, too, has more to do with the chili’s age than the actual corking. Most chilies tend to get sweeter as they age, corking or not. So the corking is more a visual sign of age.

Is it a perfect science? No. For instance, both young green jalapeños and mature red jalapeños can both show corking. The green jalapeño with stretch lines will still be more bitter and bright than the ripe red. The color of your hot pepper is a much better visual signal for its potential for sweetness, particularly for those peppers that mature from green to red.

–> Learn More: Green Vs. Red Jalapeño – How Do They Compare?

Do chilies with corking rot quicker?

There is also no evidence to suggest that chilies with corking rot quicker. Many people, actually, believe that the opposite is true. The theory is that the stretch marks indicate a slightly thicker skin, which provides additional protection against the interior of the fruit rotting. Of course, this is only a theory. It’s best to treat your peppers with stretch marks as you would any other chili pepper.

Can you stop corking from happening?

If you’re concerned that those chilies in your garden or your kitchen could experience skin cracking, there are some things you can do.

  • Make sure you’re not over-watering your plants. Water early in the day so the plant has time to dry out before nightfall.
  • Pick your chilies while they are young. The longer your peppers stay on the vine, the more chance there is that they’ll have some corking. That’s particularly true if your growing conditions are optimal for creating the cracking.
  • Store your chilies in a cool, dry place. They will last longer and be less likely to experience corking than those that are stored in a humid environment.

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UPDATE NOTICE: This post was updated on August 23, 2022 to include new content.
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