The habaneros are a family of chili peppers of Cuban origin, as the name derives from the capital of Cuba, Havana. In spite of its origin they are considered typical Mexican chillies, as the cultivar has spread to the Yucatan. Today it is one of the most cultivated varieties of hot peppers in the world and we find it grown everywhere, from Texas to Italy.
Growing habanero peppers in Italy is possible and can be a source of great satisfaction. We will find out how to do it in the best way, with the various tricks from sowing to harvest.
Among the various types of chilli, habanero is easily recognized for its lantern-shaped fruit, which is originally orange but takes on different colors depending on the variety. In fact, under the name of habanero we find a series of cultivars belonging to the species Capsicum chinense, among these there is also the fearsome habanero red savina which with a spiciness score of over 500,000 Scoville points held the world spiciness record until 2007.
Characteristics of the plant
The habanero plant belongs to the god family capsicum chinense, it's about a perennial species which for climatic reasons is generally managed as an annual. From sowing it takes about 120 days to bear fruit, we can therefore say that it has a rather long cycle, even compared to other varieties of chilli.
Form an upright shrub with a resistant stem, which does not need support except for a windy exposure of the ground. It spreads quite wide on the sides and reaches about 90 cm in height.
It has beautiful oval leaves and fruits around 4 cm in lengtha, from the characteristic lantern shape. The size and shape of the chili pepper can vary depending on the cultivar, as well as the color of the peel which ranges in many colors: yellow, orange, red, purple, brown.
Habanero peppers and Scoville scale
The spiciness of a chili depends on the capsaicin content in the fruit and it is measured according to the Scoville scale in SHU (Scoville Heat Units). It is not possible to indicate a valid SHU score for all habaneros, because there are many different cultivars. The Scoville score for the single cultivar also represents an approximation, since the spiciness also depends on cultivation factors and can vary from fruit to fruit.
Typically the habanero cultivars are rather spicy, on average around 200,000 SHU, up to over 500,000 for the red savina. The organoleptic characteristics vary greatly from cultivar to cultivar, although habanero is generally considered to be an excellent pepper fruity taste, which is enhanced rather than covered by the high spiciness. Precisely this together with the fairly fleshy pulp makes it renowned all over the world and asuitable for both drying and fresh use.
How habaneros are grown
If we want to grow habanero peppers in Italy we must take into account that we are still talking about di a plant that originates between Cuba and Mexico, in completely different climates from ours. So there are some important things that can help us succeed in cultivation. Starting with the right sowing period.
The choice of land
Hot peppers need a rather loose and draining soil, even if fertile and rich in organic matter. Therefore, the ideal would be to have a fairly sandy soil, enriched with a good fertilization based on compost and mature manure. With the right spade processing and correct contributions we can grow chillies in any vegetable garden and even do it in pots.
What is fundamental is solar exposure, the habaneros need many hours of light and are not cultivable with good results in partially shaded plots.
Of course you can decide to grow habanero totally indoors artificially deciding temperatures and humidity. In this case we can also decide the soil to use as a growing medium. I do not recommend this method, since it is certainly not the most natural and eco-sustainable system.
The period of sowing and transplanting
The habanero plant it cannot stand the cold and has a rather long cultivation cycle, in fact, it is born in climatic areas where temperatures are mild all year round and fears temperatures below 15-16 degrees, even at night.
To have a good harvest in our areas it is important to know how to make the most of the warm months and to do so we must anticipate sowing with a heated seedbed, it is also useful (although not essential) a real growbox where to grow the plant
The sowing period can go from January to the end of March, where January requires the possibility of keeping the seedling sheltered for a longer period, so a growbox, while sowing in March generally takes place at the end of April to transplant, with seedlings still of limited size.
The seedlings should be planted in the garden between late April and early May, in central-southern Italy the transplant can be slightly anticipated. Better to avoid postponing to June instead, given the rather long cycle of the plant.
We put plants about 60-70 cm apart among them, since habanero is a cultivar that branches out quite a lot.
I have already written a complete guide on the cultivation of hot peppers in general, even for the habanero it is worth referring to those indications, as well as the various insights you will find on important topics such as sowing, grow boxes and fertilization.
Here it may be useful to remember some tips that can help improve the yield:
- Mulch. Covering the soil with straw or sheets is useful to keep it moist and therefore reduce irrigation.
- Kaolin powder. The treatment with kaolin has several positive effects: it creates a mechanical barrier that discourages some parasitic insects, absorbs moisture helping to contain diseases and protects the fruit from sunburn on very sunny days.
- Scalar collection. The more it is harvested, the more the habanero plant produces: in fact it stimulates itself to make new fruits.
- Do not irrigate near the crop. To have spicy and tasty peppers it is useful to suspend irrigation in the days before harvest.
The habanero cultivars
First of all an important clarification: today the name habanero indicates different cultivars of chilli, which are related but also very different from each other, in shape, color and degree of spiciness. The real habanero variety would be habanero orange, but various other similar cultivars have been selected, which have "stolen" the name. For this reason we are talking about a “family” of varieties rather than a single cultivar.
Some characteristics are common to the various habaneros, while others are peculiar to the cultivar. For example, the color of habanero chocolate is completely different from that of red savina. For this reason it is worth seeing the varieties one by one.
Habanero orange: the original habanero
Habanero was born as an orange pepper, although many varieties of habanero were then selected, of different colors, from red to chocolate brown,
Her spiciness is measured in 200 - 300 thousand points on the Scoville scale, even if it does not reach the Guinness Book of Records, it is a cultivar with a very respectable spiciness. The orange habanero is particularly appreciated for its fruity flavor.
Habanero red savina: the hottest
In 1989, pepper grower Frank Garcia found a dai plant in his habanero orange field red fruits. This new variety was recognized in 1993 and took the name of habanero red savina, from the color of the fruit (red, in English red) and from the name of Frank's mother (in fact, Savina).
The red Savina is measured 577,000 Scoville SHU Points, at that time it was the hottest pepper in the world, so starting from 1994 the red Savina entra in the Guinness Book of Records, a record he lost in 2007 beaten by Bhut Jolokia. Today, extremely hot pepper varieties have been selected, exceeding 2 million SHU on the Scoville scale, but habanero red savina remains one of the most popular and cultivated super hot peppers in the world.
Definitely spicy cultivar, with a brown skin as its name suggests, it is one of the most renowned varieties on a culinary level. The fruits of chocolate are a little larger than other habanero, very interesting as a fruity and slightly smoky flavor.
This chili, also called black Congo, it dries well in the sun but is also excellent fresh.
The habanero peach is very similar to the orange as characteristics, spiciness and flavor. It is a very productive type of habanero, with a lighter skin, tending to peach pink.
Top chilli pepper (Habanero orange blob)
Beautiful plant, which also has an aesthetic value ornamental if grown in the garden or in pots, the top chilli pepper has one very particular shape of the fruit, wrinkled skin, average spiciness and a good flavor that has citrus notes.
Bullet chili (Habanero white bullet)
This white habanero is a relatively mildly spicy habanero compared to the rest of the family, with the ivory white skin. The fruits are small and have a little fleshy pulp, ortimely to be dried and to make flavored oil.
Being a fairly small plant it is perfect for growing in pots.
Article by Matteo Cereda. Botanical Illutrations of Marina Fusari.
Other interesting reads:Matteo Cereda2020-05-28T09: 26: 22 + 02: 00
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