The habanero chile (Capsicum chinense) is one of the most intensely hot, spicy chile peppers that you will come across. The species was misnamed in 1776 by a Dutch physician who was collecting plants throughout the Caribbean for Emperor Francis I. The species was incorrectly identified as "chinense" as he believed this chile had originated in China. The name stuck and this Chinese hot pepper is not from China but originated from the Caribbean and South America.
The word habanero has long been used in the English language to represent the entire chinense species. This is also incorrect as there have been dozens of various pod types identified within the species. It is not uncommon for some to call the Scotch bonnet a type of "habanero." That would also be wrong as the Scotch bonnet and habanero are different pod types of the same Capsicum chinense species.
There is some debate as to where the habanero is originally from – some believe that it is native to the Amazon region of South America and others believe that is was originally brought to the Yucatan Peninsula from Cuba. These chile heads believe that it is actually named after the Cuban city La Habana (which we in the US know as Havana). To add more fuel to the fire several Mexican horticulturists have noted that the habanero is the only chile in the Yucatán region that does not have a Mayan name, which would also indicate that it was imported at some time.
The Yucatan region is one of the leading producers of habaneros but these chile peppers are also harvested in Costa Rica, Ecuador, California and Texas. Our Habaneros are grown in Ecuador.
Habaneros ripen into one of a variety of colors including red, orange, pink, white or chocolate. The typical size is 1” -2 ½” and 1”-2” in diameter. Habaneros are some of the hottest chile peppers and rate around 200,000 - 300,000 Scoville Units. While these pack a nice burn that heat seekers crave they also have a bit of a fruity taste to them.
The flavor profile of the habanero has the noticeable tropical fruit flavors of coconut and papaya, with berry undertones, and an acidic and intense, fiery heat.
There are approximately 30 habanero chiles per ounce.
Habaneros are ideal in homemade salsas, wings and barbeque sauce.