Chilli Habanero/ Scotch Bonnets – The King of Chili Peppers
In my humble opinion, the Habaneros are undoubtedly the king of chilli peppers. They are a great all round chilli; enticing appearance, great taste and a spicy but-not-too-powerful heat level.
Where is the Habanero pepper from?
The name Habanero comes from the Cuban capital which was a major trading point for these little hot bombs. Actually talking of hot bombs in the context of US-Cuba relations is quite apt. After diplomacy broke down the main Habanero hub moved to the Yucatan province in Mexico where they produce about 1,500 tonnes per year.
They are the botanical cousins of another of my favourite chillies, the Scotch Bonnet (from the Caribbean) where they are often used in jerk seasoning. If you don’t know about jerk, you’d better get to know about jerk; it’s a great combo if thyme, scotch bonnets, allspice and brown sugar all mixed up and then used as a rub for goat, ham or anything else you can smoke in an oil drum.
How to recognize the Habanero Chilli Pepper and how does it taste?
In terms of appearance they look like normal bell peppers, but in miniature format. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you can dip them in some hummus or guacamole and enjoy your dinner party because you won’t. You will end up spluttering, coughing and turning red like a vicar in a strip club. These diminutive devils are pretty punchy, racking up an impressive 200,000 on the Scoville scale which means they will give you a nice, tangy heat but they won’t eat away at your upper respiratory trach like a ravenous zombie.
How you can use Habanero Pepper?
They tend to be one of my go-to chillies. Sometimes I cut them up and use them in the sofrito (tip: wear gloves if you intend to touch your eyes or go to the bathroom within the next 30 days). On other occasions, I will whack them into a sauce whole and then squash them down with the back of a spoon to get the spicy goodness out of them and leave it to lady luck to see who is the lucky recipient of this lava-esque nugget. They are also great in fresh salsas; a generous splash of lime juice, some salt, some cilantro and some onion and tomato and you have a great accompaniment to any dish (I don’t mean literally any dish – it probably won’t be the best pairing with a rice pudding or a Chantilly cream, but you get my drift.)
If you want to experience a real full on flavour sensation, then get yourself on TheSauceMan’s sauces. The Original Habanero is made with these beauties in abundance, bringing out the sweet, zesty notes with a combination of spices and vegetables that will blow you away (and not because of the heat level).
Habaneros are usually red, orange or brown. The brown (or chocolate) Habanero is another of my favourites, a little spicier than the original with a slightly acidic edge. The darker they Habanero gets the stronger they are. I like to use them when they are in their orange form, they are a little less aggressive that the dark red version with a slightly more floral, grassy flavour.
These little babies flourish in sunny, dry conditions and are super easy to grow, and give an impressive yield. Perfect for home growing and most importantly delicious as hell (though a lot less hot).