Today, we're focusing on chocolate habanero peppers - my absolute favorite chile.
These habaneros, which are also known by other names like "black congo" and "Jamaican hot chocolate," are an awesome source of capsaicin.
In other other words, they're extremely hot!
Background On Capsaicin and the Scoville Scale
The source of heat in any type of pepper is the "capsaicin," and the Scoville scale measures the pungency of the chile variety.
Essentially, the amount of capsaicin in the pepper is related to its Scoville heat unit (SHU) rating.
Chocolate Habanero SHU Rating
The chocolate habanero can have an SHU rating of 425,000 units and higher. (I've seen some reports that they've gone up to 577,000!)
It can be hard to grasp the heat based on a number. So for comparison...
- An orange habanero will typically rate around 150,000 to 325,000.
- The jalapeno is around 2,500 to 5,000 units.
Fortunately, capsaicin has many beneficial uses.
Capsaicin Nutritional Value
Although it may not seem like it, capsaicin produced by nature does not hurt you permanently.
Being a very good source of intense heat, habanero peppers also provide vitamins A, C and E. These rich in folic acid and potassium sources, are low in calories, sodium and do not contain carbohydrates.
As a bonus, capsaicin heat is known to cause an endorphin rush. No wonder so many of us love it!
Recent Uses of Capsaicin
Currently, capsaicin is being used for a lot of industrial purposes.
For example, capsaicin exists in pepper sprays that are found in many self defense retailers.
You'll also find this ingredient in marine coatings, which prevent barnacle growth through environmentally safe methods.
Capsaicin is also available for uses in the home.
Your pest repellent sprays often include capsaicin to get rid of garden intruders such as squirrels.
Medically, capsaicin encourages circulation and stimulates pain receptor cells to produce endorphins.
Not only that, it's also used in various analgesic solutions that cure arthritis.
For those that love the heat and want to eat chocolate habanero peppers (which I'm guessing you do if you've come to Grow Hot Peppers), just remember that pure pepper capsaicin causes your eyes and nose to run and your lips to swell.
Wear vinyl or latex gloves while handling your habaneros and keep the dish soap and milk close by just in case.
Chocolate Habanero Flavor and Uses
I grow a lot of these chillies, and the flavor has always been more smoky than it's orange relative.
And there's definitely a difference in heat level. The chocolate hab wins every time.
As far as capsaicin, here's a story for you...
I froze a bunch of my chocolate habaneros because they grew like crazy one year. I let a few thaw out, and then started cutting them up for my recipe.
One particular pod had it in for me. I cut into it and a stream of capsaicin hit me directly in the eye! I swear, it looked like a spray of water coming out of the chile.
Ouch. Now I wear eye protection.
Chocolate habaneros are typically used to make Jamaican jerk sauce, but they're incredible in mole, stew, salsa and whatever else you can dream up.
And for those of you looking to grow the chocolate habanero (or any pepper that strikes your fancy)... Make sure to check out the updated and expanded Pepper Seed Starting Guide for complete, how-to steps on all indoor growing phases, from germinating your seeds to getting your seedlings to the point where they can safely go outside… I personally use this resource to start my abundant pepper garden each season, and I’m always here to answer questions!