The 'Scotch Bonnet' was the first Caribbean Hot Pepper to be known by a specific name in the export market. The chili peppers themselves have deep furrows and often flatten, so are wider than they are long. The name refers to the perceived resemblance to the Scottish Tam O’Shanter (those floppy plaid hats with the pom-poms on top).
One of the hottest chillies in the world, the Scotch Bonnet is the Caribbean equivalent of the habanero chili. It can reach a value of 350.000 Scoville but differentiates itself with an exceptionally tropical-fruity taste. It develops a rich, multi-sided flavour, a smokey, fruity aroma which some people say is reminiscent of apricots.
With a little bit of sweet to go along with all that spice the Scotch Bonnet is most commonly found in hot Caribbean dishes like jerk chicken, mango or papaya salsas, grilled pork or fish, though it crops up in recipes as far away as West Africa. They’re one of the main ingredients in the famous West Indian hot pepper sauces, which differ from country to country but can be found in almost every household in the Caribbean.
The fruits have a very thin outer wall, they are particularly well-suited to drying. They can be eaten fresh by those seeking a high from the fiery burn and are also great for pickling, garnishes, sauces and jerk rubs. The flavour is fruity with a heat that lingers.
A variety of Capsicum chinense, the Scotch bonnet plant adores lots of sun and warmth, which is why it doesn`t quite reach the same proportions here as it does in its native Caribbean islands. It grows as a bushy shrub, reaching a height of around 120cm (4ft) tall. The leaves are ovate and look a little wrinkled and the flowers are white. The plant can produce exceptional yields of fruit per year, a little more rounded in shape than other species they mature at 4 to 5cm (1½ to 2in) in diameter.
The peppers can be harvested at different stages, the immature, short fruits are lime green and cultivars ripen with an attractive range of colours, through orange to a dark red, when the skins become slightly wrinkled.
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 early December to January under glass, or for maincrop sow March to April.
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 7-10cm (3-4in) 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 turn from green to red. 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.
Be very careful when handling these peppers, treat them with the respect that they deserve, remember that the tasting process requires considerable care and always have milk to hand.
A little note: to control the heat of a pepper, remove the seeds and the membrane on the inside of the pepper before adding to your favourite recipe, chopping it very, very fine will more evenly distribute the heat throughout the dish.
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 the seeds as even they can cause a painful burning sensation. We recommend you wear nitrile or latex gloves to protect your hands and avoid touching your face while harvesting or handling these peppers.
When finished, dispose of the gloves then wash your hands thoroughly. Do not rub your eyes, or visit the bathroom (ouch!) before washing thoroughly!
The Scotch Bonnet was the first Caribbean hot pepper to be known by a specific name in the export market. Its history has been traced to Central and South America, however, there is no concrete proof as to where the chile pepper was first cultivated.
Although frequently confused with the habanero, the Scotch Bonnet or Jamaican Hot is definitely not the same as its stout cousin. The mature Scotch bonnet measures between 1½ and 2 inches in diameter. The immature, short fruits are lime green and cultivars ripen with an attractive range of colours, through yellow orange to a dark red, when the skins become slightly wrinkled. Habaneros are larger and smoother shaped.
One of the defining features of this type of pepper is its sweet aroma and unique flavour. Scotch bonnets have a smokey, fruity aroma as compared with habaneros.
Chilli terminology is confusing; pepper, chili, chile, chilli, Aji, paprika and Capsicum are used interchangeably for chilli pepper plants in the genus Capsicum.
The word Capsicum comes from the Greek kapto, meaning 'to bite' (a reference to pungency or heat). In Mexico a Capsicum is called a Chile pepper, while Chile enthusiasts around the World often use the spelling Chile or Chili.
Many people are unaware of the fact that pepper plants are perennials. We typically plant the seeds, reap the benefits of our labour and then let the plants die off when the cold weather hits. However, with a little effort, you can over-winter your pepper plants and have a more fruitful harvest the following year. Over-wintering your plants will bring you a number of benefits. While everyone else is planting seeds in the spring, your plants will have a head start with well-established root systems and stems. The harvest will come much sooner and last much longer, producing much more that a first year plant would.
At the end of the growing season, when the temperature begins to drop, pepper plants will become dormant. They are finished producing flowers and pods for the year and require much less sunlight and water. This is the time to begin the over-wintering process.
The first step for over-wintering your pepper plants is to cut them back drastically, leaving only a short stem. This may seem a bit harsh, but it will make your plant concentrate its energy on re-growth, rather than trying to sustain older, un-productive vegetation. Re-potting your plants in a smaller container will also help your plant reserve its energy for hibernation.
The most important step is to place your plants in a warm area that will give them the best chance of surviving the winter. Most of us don’t have a greenhouse, so a sunny windowsill will work well. If the temperature inside is comfortable to you, chances are your plants will enjoy it as well. Continue to water your plant, but do so much less often. The soil should be moist, but not damp as this will promote the growth of mould.
If you are successful in over-wintering your pepper plants, you can be sure to have an incredibly fruitful harvest the following year. While everyone else is still watering seedlings, you will be enjoying fresh, delicious peppers.
- Additional Information
Packet Size 10 Seeds Common Name Very Hot: 100,000 to 350,000 SHU Other Common Names Jamacan or Caribbean Hot Red Pepper Other Language Names Boabs Bonnet, Scotty Bons, Tam O’Shanter, Bonney Peppers, Family Solanaceae Genus Capsicum Species chinense Cultivar Scotch Bonnet Synonym Pepper, Capsicum, Chilli, Chile or Chilli Hardiness Tender Perennial often used as an Annual Fruit Squat Ripen from green to red Height 90 to 120cm (36 to 48in) Spread 45 to 60cm (18 to 24in) Aspect Grow in good light. Soil Rich moist soil. Time to Sow December to January under glass, or for maincrop sow March to April. Germination Germination period: 12-21 days Harvest Pick them off the plant any time after they are fully developed Time to Harvest 100 days to harvest