The name derives from Havana, meaning "the one from Havana". The Habanero can be found in a lot of varieties ranging from white to chocolate and from mild to hot. Taste and heat are different for each type, that is what makes them special.
Habanero – the mother of all super hots
A Chilli with a long history is the habanero. And it is a story full of misunderstandings – that have continued until today. The first one is already the name: Habanero means something like “From Havana” – this is actually not the place of origin even though the Chilli is sold there. As a representative of the capsicum chinense, like all the other varieties it is taught because of the name that these originate from China. The actual place of origin is from the Amazon in South America. From there starting 6500 BC. She found its way to the north where she was cultivated especially on the Yucatan peninsula. After the European colonial age the fruit has found its way all over the earth – what further lead to people believing that the fruit originates from China, which has further lead to more misunderstandings…
What is a Habanero actually?
Like already mentioned the Habanero is a capsicum chinense. Like many of its relatives she is characterized trough a high heat level and originates from the Amazonian region from where it was then brought to the entire world. Especially bellowed was and is the Habanero with its aroma and as a base for other super-hot varieties and also as a base for a lot of hot sauces.
The Habaero plant: a typical chinense representative
It there is a stereotype for the species capsicum chinense, then this is the Habanero. This has all the traits of the species in a way or another: light to bright green color of the hairless and in the majority big leaves, as well as a light to bright green color of the stem. At first the plant grows in a compact form and then begins early on to develop in a full crown. Typical plants grow up to a height of one meter, and the average should be of about 75cm. When taken god care of they develop quickly and hundreds of white to cream white blossoms - and that can have even in the first season dozens of fruit.
The fruit of the Habaneros are above all wrinkled. A well know Chilli gardener has said about this Chilli that the Habanero Chillis are the wrinkled Chilies. What he meant is that the fruit can be found in a wide variety of colors, not round, oval, long, pear or ball shaped, but more are shapeless with wrinkles that go the length of the Chilli, that are not parallel one to another. In the main cultivation are between middle and south America there are predominant yellow and orange Habaneros, what may actually be the original color. Further possible colors are of course red but also purple and brown, apricot, mustard colors and almost green. A trait that differentiates the Habanero from the other superhot like the Trinidad Scorpion, the Bhut Jolokia and the Carolina Reaper is the surface: while these have an uneven skin, the Habanero is very smooth despite all the wrinkles and appears as if it would be made from wax. When it comes to the taste, the Habanero can have besides the heat an exotic fruity aroma that reminds one of the fruity aroma of the Baccatum-Chilis and the Rocotos.
Heat world champion…
…title has been lost for some time now. The Habanero has been in the year 1999 the world record holder for heat as the hottest Chilli in the world. In order to be more precise, the variety that had this title was the “Red Savina” that has been taken over by the Bhut Jolokia, a close relative. 20 times the heat of Tabasco, measuring around 100.000 Scoville, are here standard and the lower limit – upper limit can be up to 500.000 Scoville units. This means that the heat is comparable with the heat of the pepper sprays that can be bought commercially.
The Habaneros don’t like wet feet at all!
Rubber boots as a plant vessels against “wet feet” are perhaps an original idea, but most certainly not a good idea if you want to plant Habaneros. The saying is not random – and comes to clarify another misunderstanding. For somebody from Europe it seems natural that a plant that originates from the Amazon and remembering from the geography lessons from school that the Amazon is also called the rainforest you would automatically presume that the plant like it moist. This is not the case, but exactly the opposite. The best conditions for growth – like most other capsicum chinense types – in loos and mineral rich earth that lets the water sip trough easily. The most common reason why the Habaneros perish without having pests is that there has been too much water in the soil. A further indicator of this are light bitter tasting fruit. A lot of Habaneros that can be found in the Supermarkets that come from greenhouses have this characteristic…
Like you can already see it is not that easy to make a Habanero plant happy. With a couple of hints this can be made more easily. It is ideal that the plant receives after the germination phase a big pot. Ten liter pots are here enough – more is even better. As a under layer it is recommended that you use a mix of flower earth, Perlite and sand. Flower earth that is peat based is best because the Habaneros prefer a light acidic soil. As a place where to put the plant it is recommended that you put it next to a wall that is southeast oriented. This way the plant receives the early morning rays and the plant is protected against the direct noon and afternoon sun rays. You should water the plants sparingly – it is less damaging for the plant if the leaves dangle for half a day than to have the plant drowning.
Habaneros are suited for wintering as well. In the second and third year the plants should have a bigger pot then in the first year.
Please handle only with gloves!
After the rubber boots for the plant come the rubber gloves to play: when you want to process the Habanero fruit, you should wear gloves. When you know this, the next question that comes to mind is what should be done with the fruit? Here there are more answers.
First of all you can process them fresh – this only something for the hardcore Chilli fans. A whole Habanero, which is small cut in a Goulash for the dinner is way too hot for your offspring. Who knows how much heat they can tolerate can put thin cut slices on the pizza or can spice up a soup.
The Habanero has a relatively thin fleshed and doesn’t retain moisture. This makes it especially suited for drying. This is one of its strong points: due to the high heat it can be eaten only in small portions – and if dried, this is more easily. This is why it is perfectly suited as a spice and can refine dishes with the chinense typical fruity exotic aroma. When cut in half, this Chilli can be died easily in a piece of paper that is placed on the radiator, in the oven at low temperature or of course in a dehydrator. After this, the Chilli can be ground in a mill. Due to its ability to be dried and the fact that it doesn’t retain water, the Habanero is suited to make Chill salt. Hereby you can use dried Habanero from which the seeds have been removed and that have been ground to a paste which can then be mixed, depending on personal preferences with coarse salt. After this in the summer you can put in in a warm place (but not directly in the sun) to dry out and then for a couple of hours at low temperature in the oven. This way the salt can be kept for many years.
One of the most important uses for the Habanero is in the production of sauces. High heat paired with a unique aroma and good availability make it to one of the most beloved ingredients of the private and commercial sauce manufactories.
577.000 Scoville units topped in 1999 the Habanero Variety “Red Savina”, which has also an orange, similarly hot sister “Francisca” that has come from the same breeding grounds like the “Red Savina”. Another close relative of the Habanero that has grown in popularity is the so called “Fatali” that has more similitudes when it comes to form with the Bhut Jolokia then with the Habanero and this could be one of its distant relatives. There has existed a direct encounter between the Bhut Jolokia and the Habanero like it is usual for the Chilli culture – and this as well with world record heat, after the Bhut Jolokia has taken over the Red Savina and a kid of the Ghost Pepper (Bhut Jolokia) and a red Habanero emerged into the Carolina Reaper. This was made by “Smokin” Ed Currie. This Chilli holds the world record for the hottest Chilli since 2013 – and continues the world record stream of this family.
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