Red Habanero chillies are one happy looking bunch. They have colourful skins that ripen from green to yellow and then orange to red as they mature. They are small, cute, shinny and have waxy skin. But as much as their looks are inviting, they are among the hottest chilli peppers commonly grown in the world. Incredibly fierce they have a rating of 200,000 to 350,000 on the Scoville scale.
Used in Mexican and Caribbean cuisine, try using them whole so that the flavour infuses dishes such as fish stews, casseroles, sauces and curries. They are also good for making chutneys and chilli sauces. The Habanero when ripe or dried and powdered has a unique apricot scent.
They will grow happily outside over the summer in pots, or planted into the garden, but bring them in before the first frosts to prolong fruiting.
The official heat scale for chillies is known as the Scoville scale, developed by Wilbur Scoville in 1912.To give you an idea of the range of heat in an habanero: a sweet pepper scores 0 on the scale, jalapeño and chipotle chillies score anything between 2,500 to 10,000 and habaneros score 200,000 to 300,000!
The Scotch bonnet is often compared to the habanero, as they are two varieties of the same species but have different pod types. Both the Scotch bonnet and the habanero have the characteristic thin, waxy flesh. They have similar heat level and flavour.
- Awarded the RHS Award of Garden Merit
Capsicum chinense 'Habanero' has been awarded the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit (AGM).
Storage of Seeds:
Store seeds away from children, sealed in their packaging in a cool, dry, dark place, or in a fridge. Never store them in a freezer as the sudden temperature drop is likely to kill them. Don't leave the seeds in direct sunlight as the heat generated may kill them.
Sowing: Sow from mid February to mid July
Fill small cells or trays with a good sterile seed compost and sow the seeds on the surface. “Just cover” with a fine sprinkling (3mm) of soil or vermiculite.
Keep the compost moist - don't let the top of the compost dry out (a common cause of germination failure) If you wish, spray the surface with a dilute copper-based fungicide.
Cover the pot or tray with plastic film or place in a heated propagator, south facing window or a warm greenhouse. The ideal temperature is around 18 to 20°C (65 to 72°F)
When the seedlings have produced their first pair of true leaves they can be potted on into individual 7 to 10cm (3 to 4in) pots. Use good quality potting compost and mix in some organic slow release fertiliser. Pot the chilli on again before it becomes root-bound.
Water the seedlings regularly, but don't let them become waterlogged as this encourages rot. Don't let them dry out as they rarely recover at this stage. Water the soil, not the foliage. Once the plants have established, it is better to water heavy and infrequently, allow the top inch or so to dry out in between watering.
Seedlings should be grown in good light, but should not be exposed to direct sunlight from late spring to early autumn. Weaker sunlight from autumn to spring is unlikely to do them harm. Once seedlings have put on some growth they need lots of light. Growing them under a grow-light produces excellent stocky plants, as will a warm sunny windowsill. Adult chilli plants need lots of light. However, more than 4 hours or so in hot direct sunlight will dry them out quickly.
Acclimatise to outdoor conditions for 2 to 3 weeks before they are moved permanently outside. Plant them into rich moist soil. Flower do not form and fruit will not set if the temperature is much below 17°C (62°F) for most of the day, so wait until June/July for best results with outdoor planting.
After the first flowers appear, feed every one or two weeks with a half-strength liquid tomato feed. You could also add some Seaweed extract to the water once a week.
Pollinating Flowers: (optional)
Chilli plants are self fertile and will generally pollinate themselves. However, if you want to give them a helping hand to ensure that lots of fruit are set indoors, use a cotton wool bud to gently sweep the inside of the flowers, spreading the pollen as you go. The flower's petals will drop off as the green middle part of the flower starts to swell slightly. This is the chilli pepper beginning to grow.
Chillies will take a few weeks to develop and a further couple weeks to mature. You may pick them off the plant any time after they are fully developed but the longer you leave them on the hotter they will become. Do not leave them on for too long, as delaying after the chili is ready for harvest will result in a decline of further yields.
After picking, if you aren't going to eat them fresh, dry the peppers by putting them into a mesh bag, hang the bag up in a dry, airy, but not sunny spot. When they are completely dry, you can make paprika by grinding the peppers. Don't grind the stalks. You can regulate the spiciness of the result by including more or less of the seeds and veins.
Be careful handling chilli seeds as they can cause a painful burning sensation: wash your hands thoroughly .
DO NOT rub your eyes after handling chilli seeds!!!
The habanero chili comes from the Amazonas region, and from there it was spread through Mexico and was carried north to the Caribbean via Colombia. Upon its discovery by Spaniards, the habanero chili was rapidly disseminated to other areas of the world, to the point that 18th-century taxonomists mistook China for its place of origin and called it ‘Capsicum chinense’ (‘the Chinese pepper’). While Mexico is the largest consumer of this spicy ingredient, its flavour and aroma have become increasingly popular all over the world.
The Scotch bonnet is often compared to the habanero, since they are two varieties of the same species, but have different pod types. Both the Scotch bonnet and the habanero have thin, waxy flesh. They have a similar heat level and flavour. Although both varieties average around the same level of heat, the actual degree of piquancy varies greatly from one fruit to another with genetics, growing methods, climate, and plant stress.
Habanero peppers originated in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico and are related to the Jamaican Scotch bonnet and are named after the Cuban city of La Habana.
'Habanero' is the generic name given to all varieties of chillies classified as Capsicum chinense. Though erroneous, the term 'Scotch Bonnet' is also often used for these chillies. The species name 'chinense' implies that they come from China, but this is not true: like the other four domesticated species of Capsicum (C. annuum, baccatum, pubescens and frutescens) they are, in fact, New World plants. To confuse the issue, the 'habanero' term is also used to refer to a particular variety of chilli indigenous to the Yucatan Peninsula; this is a C. chinense and is shaped vaguely like a lantern.
- Awarded the RHS Award of Garden Merit
- Additional Information
Packet Size 250mg Average Seed Count 50 seeds Common Name Very Hot - 200,000 to 300,000 SHU. Other Common Names Peppers, Capsicum, Chilli, Chile or Chilli Family Solanaceae Genus Capsicum Species chinense Cultivar Habanero Red Synonym Scotch Bonnet Hardiness Tender Perennial Fruit Lantern shaped around 3 to 4cm long. Ripen from green to red Height Grows to around 1m (36in) tall Position Grown in good light, but should not be exposed to direct sunlight Soil Rich moist soil. Time to Sow Sow from mid February to mid June Harvest Pick them off the plant any time after they are fully developed Time to Harvest 75 days to harvest