In this article we will discover the most famous Habanero chilli pepper, we will have a quick look at its history, farming methods and at all the varieties which have been discovered so far.
Additionally, you will find a list where to buy Habanero-based products or seeds, in case you want to start farming it.
Let's be honest: people like chilli. Chilli pepper has always been used as metaphor to create some sparkle during dinners in sweet company.
It seems pretty obvious: adding some chilli to the recipes, gives the meals more personality and then it let us hope for a happy ending.
What is, then, that pretty intense feeling we have after eating, for example, pasta with oil, garlic and chilli pepper aunty Concetta prepared for us?
The feeling of spiciness and burning, technically, is caused by some chemical substances contained in the spice; these foster the receptors of heat we have on the skin or on the mucous membranes in the mouth and nose. In the chilli pepper, this substance is called capsaicin.
The word originates from the Greek “kapto”, which means “to bite” and it could refer to the spicy feeling that bites the tongue after eating it.
There are different degrees of spiciness, according to the variety we choose, at our peril.
Few people have had the opportunity or have been brave enough to try one fearsome variety of chilli pepper that up to a few years ago was the hottest in the world: the cutthroat Habanero chilli pepper.
In order to explain its origins, people use a myth: its name seems to come from the capital city of Cuba, where many people think it originates from. Later, some refugees emigrated to Yucatan and took the seeds with them.
We are not certain whether this myth is true or not, but it is not that important. In fact, the myth contributes to increase the aura of mystery around the habanero pepper.
It is clear that Mexico is the biggest producer in the world of this super hot pepper, the United States, Costa Rica and Italy follow.
In fact, during the last years, in Calabria - a region of southern Italy - and in Tuscany many farmers have begun cultivating it.
The environment is pivotal for the optimal growth of the plants, which need a hot and dry weather. An excess of humidity of the ground, would bear bitter fruit.
In tropical environment the Habanero is a perennial plant, which is able to continuously produce flowers - and fruit - during the year.
On the other hand, keeping it alive below 20°C is very difficult.
Because of its squat shape, the so-called lantern-shape, the Habanero cannot be defined seductive nor sinuous. It can have lengthened, tapered or hollow tip, according to the specific variety. There is more than one variety of this species, as the most common Habanero Chocolate (brown), the Orange and the Red Savina (fire-red coloured). The Yellow, the Caribbean Red and the Fatalii are less common but they are as hot as the others.
In 1994 it became famous as the hottest pepper in the world. Later on, it was beaten by many other species of peppers. Its taste is strong and aromatic.
The Habanero pepper can be divided into 7 main varieties: Habanero Yellow, Habanero Chocolate, Habanero White, Habanero Caribbean Red, Habanero Orange, Habanero Peach, Habanero Red Savina.
This variety has a particular yellow colour; nonetheless, it is very hot and it is used for its particular colour to obtain artistic and bright meals. The plant grows up to 60-80 cm and it can even be grown at home, in the terrace as long as it receives sunlight, which positively affects the growth.
For further information on this variety of chilli pepper, see the following link: Habanero Yellow
The Habanero Chocolate is brown - purplish - and many people say it leaves a chocolate aftertaste. When I personally tried it, I only felt lots of spiciness. Its taste is very aromatic and I personally use it for the chilli pepper oil or I cut it - fresh or frozen - to season a meal. It is used for its particular colour to obtain artistic and bright meals. The plant grows up to 60-90 cm, and it can even be grown at home, in the terrace as long as it receives sunlight. While it is ripening, it would be better to use bamboo canes as support so that the excessive weight of the peppers do not break the branch.
For further information on this variety of chilli pepper, see the following link: Habanero Chocolate
The fruit of the Habanero White is spindle-shaped and small. As the others, thanks to its particular colour, it is used to create colorful meals, but if it is cooked or boiled the colour could vary. The spiciness is medium-high. Among the other Habanero peppers, it is the most delicate pepper in terms of spiciness and taste.
For further information on this variety of chilli pepper, see the following link: Habanero White
It is not easy to find the Habanero Caribbean Red on the market. Many times the Habanero Red is sold instead, due to its similarity. Differently from the Habanero Red Savina, it is more rugose; its taste is aromatic and fruity.
The main feature of this pepper it the typical fruity taste of the Habanero, yet it has one special feature: it is orange-coloured. In fact, it is used for colorful meals. Its origins are Mexican. It grows up to 60-90 cm and it has a late ripening, usually in September or October.
For further information on this variety of chilli pepper, see the following link: Habanero Orange
This pepper is yellow-orange, similar to a peach. The plant grows up to 20-30 cm; the taste is quite aromatic with a very high level of spiciness. This variety is not so common, because it looks like the faded variety of the Habanero Orange, yet we are not sure about it. As the others, its taste is fruity.
It is the most famous and the most sold. Frank Garcia discovered it for the first time in 1989, when he notices, among others Habanero Orange plants, some of them which had red fruit and called them after his mother Savina. In 1994 it was recorded in the Guinness World Records until 2007, when it was overcome by the Bhut Jolokia.
The plant grows up to 60-90 cm, it is an easy one to grow. The colour is shiny red and the fruit have a late ripening.
For further information on this variety of chilli pepper, see the following link: Habanero Red Savina
The procedures that establish the degree of spiciness of a pepper, which is expressed in SHU, require a piece of the pepper to be dissolved in sugar and water solution, until some unlucky testers would stop feeling the burning.
The value that Scoville arbitrarily established ws 16.000.000, pure capsaicin.
Habanero Red Savina won the Guinness World Record in 2016, with its 400.000 SHU that burnt many people’s mouth, followed by the Habanero Chocolate(250.000 SHU) and the Habanero Orange (170.000).
Yet, it was overcome by the Bhut Jolokia (“snake pepper” in Assamese language), later by the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion and eventually in 2013 by the Carolina Reaper. These are all characterized by a scorpion-shape tip. It looks like the spiciness is never ending and this peppers are all bad and ugly.
However, the Habanero, in the collective imagination, is still the hottest pepper a human being could ever taste.
For those who have a green thumb and love gardening, I suggest to begin the farming of this incredible quality of pepper between January and March. The plant grows slowly, so it is important it has the time to end its growth before winter. If you are lucky, passionate and if you follow the right instructions you will collect fruit up to November or December. As soon as the winter comes, the plant will die and then it will be re-born when it is springtime. We created a guide on how to build a greenhouse DIY and on how to buy a greenhouse ready for peppers. You can also have a look at the second guide useful for farming: How to grow chilli pepper, from seeding to the extraction of the seeds from the mature peppers.
You can also read the following guide: Germination of chilli pepper, Scottex method
It you are a little bit lazy and you want to go right to the point and have your chilli pepper ready for cooking...don’t worry, we have what you want.
Come on! Take a fork, a glass of water and let's face up to the Habanero. Enjoy your meal!
Habanero Red Savina: