Carol Cloud Bailey
CAPSICUM chinense( Habanero Group)
Plant Common Name
These are some of the hottest peppers in the world. Grown for their pungent flavor and fruity aroma, peppers in the Habanero Group are mostly associated with the cuisines of Latin America. Though the name “chinense” suggests a Chinese origin, these tender annuals originate from the Americas and were selected and distributed by Native Americans since pre-history times. Their area of origin was likely the Amazon Basin and domestication probably originated in tropical Peru. Many separate Capsicum chinense under different cultivar classes or groups based on fruit shape and other factors, to include the Habanero Group.
Habaneros are bushy plants with rigid, upright stems and large, thin, medium green leaves. Their flowers are five-petaled and white or pale green. There are usually two to six flowers per branch, a trait which sets this species apart from other Capsicum. The thin skinned peppers may be lantern or bell-shaped and slightly wrinkled in texture. Green fruits or fully colored mature fruits can be eaten, but green have a sharper flavor. Mature fruit colors include chocolate brown, red, orange, yellow, or purple, depending on the cultivated variety. On the interior they are divided by thin spongy ribbing which supports many small, flattened, rounded seeds.
Habanero peppers are generally hot, but some selections are milder. Their heat is produced by the chemical capsaicin, which is measured in Scoville units against the Scoville scale (see link at the bottom of the text). The purer the capsaicin, the hotter the pepper and the higher the Scoville rating. The Scoville range of Habanero peppers is 100,000 to 350,000, depending on the cultivar. Compare this to the average jalapeño, which has a Scoville Rating of 5,000.
Peppers are warm season vegetables that are easy to grow if provided full sun, warmth, and fertile soil with good drainage. If supplemental food is needed, choose a food specially formulated for tomatoes and peppers. Habanero seeds are a little slower to germinate than other peppers. The plants prefer very warm conditions and the fruits may take a little longer to mature, particularly in temperate climates. These peppers generally take 80 to 120 days to harvest from seed. Some vascular wilts and fungal problems can befall them, but proper spacing will keep these diseases at bay and help with fruit production.
Peppers in the Habanero Group are very similar to those in the Scotch Bonnet Group. Some of the differences between them include fruit shape (elongated versus bonnet or turban-shaped), origin of use (Habaneros are favored in Latin American cooking and Scotch Bonnets in West Indian) and southern root-knot nematode resistance (Scotch Bonnets exhibit greater resistance than Habaneros).
Scoville Scale: http://www.chilliworld.com/FactFile/Scoville_Scale.asp.