Habanero Peppers

My habaneros are just about ready for harvesting! I’ve grown these little beauties from seed and, despite a couple of outbreaks of spider mites, I’ve finally got a few plants with ripe fruit. This makes me very happy. Seriously, for me, nothing beats the flavour of fresh, ripe habaneros!

Habanero peppers, incidentally, are one of the hottest chillis in the world, (behind the fearsome naga jolokia). Averaging around 350,000 scoville units, habaneros are over 100 times as hot as jalapeños. That’s a lot of capsaicin. These fruit are most definitely to be treated with respect!

Habaneros have actually been chemically characterised pretty well. Orange ones are fruitier than red ones, because they contain more esters. In fact, unripe habaneros have a lot more variety of flavour compounds — many diminish or disappear as the fruit ripen. Personally though, I find ripe orange habaneros to be by far the most delicious.

For food pairing purposes, the main active flavour compounds in habanero peppers are:

  • (E)-2-hexenal (found in cashew apples, ripe tomatoes, pumpkin and has antibacterial action)
  • hexyl 3-methylbutanoate (found in various unripe fruit)
  • (Z)-3-hexenyl 3-methylbutanoate (found in blueberry, guava, melon, pineapple)
  • hexyl pentanoate (also found in passion fruit, plum, apple)
  • 3,3-dimethylcyclohexanol (gives flavour in many types of pepper – especially bell peppers)
  • hexadecanoic acid (aka palmitic acid, found in palm oil)

About Invader Xan

Molecular astrophysicist, usually found writing frenziedly, staring at the sky, or drinking mojitos.
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10 Responses to Habanero Peppers

  1. invaderxan says:

    Really? That’s interesting. Must be really troublesome too!
    I’m no medic, but it certainly sounds like you’re right. Same oversensitivity, just relating to what you’re eating. I’d imagine being over-sensitive to texture would easily fool your body into thinking you’re eating something unpleasant, so it’s regular reactions would kick in…
    That sucks. :

  2. ryttu3k says:

    Might it be related to Aspergers? I have sensory integration dysfunction along with that, which basically means I’m WAY oversensitive to stuff – like, I find wool so incredibly uncomfortable that once, when forced to wear a woollen jumper (er, sweater) as a kid, I scratched my arms so much they bled. (Needless to say, next time we went out, Mum let me wear my fleecy sweatshirt.) Most of my food sensitivities relate to texture (if there’s the slightest bit of avocado in my mouth, I throw up), maybe this is sort of… the skin sensitivity as applied to food?

  3. invaderxan says:

    That is a little strange, you’re right… Perhaps you do have sensitive skin or something…

  4. ryttu3k says:

    Mm… probably likely that I’m not used to it, then. I don’t get it, though! My siblings can all eat spicy stuff fine o.o

  5. invaderxan says:

    Not a fan of the spicy food, huh?
    It’s cool. Lots of people aren’t fans, seemingly… :)
    Flavour-wise though, there are a couple of other peppers out there with more or less the same flavour as habaneros but with less heat. Actually, most capsicum chinense taste kinda similar — like the venezuelan ají dulce (I think they’re a lot more like jalapeños…). There’s also a breed of habanero from Texas called the “TAM Mild Habanero”. They’re actually tamer than jalapeños!

  6. stargzr_htn says:

    Sorry, this is where my interest in gastronomy stops! In fact, it stops below the jalapena level. You have guts, man!

  7. invaderxan says:

    You’re probably not allergic. It’s likely you’re just not used to capsaicin in food. I wouldn’t worry, you’re not alone. I’ve met a lot of people who just can’t eat spicy food.
    If it’s a genuine allergy, your lips would be swollen and itchy. A burning sensation and a little reddening of the skin is perfectly natural. That’s just what capsaicin does. ;)

  8. ryttu3k says:

    Ooh, right. I’m either incredibly intolerant or outright allergic to it, then – butter chicken has been known to make my lips and tongue feel like they’re being set on fire. That’s not normal, is it? o.o

  9. invaderxan says:

    That would be capsaicin. ;)
    And I cook non-spicy food sometimes… I just prefer to eat my food with a little fire! :P

  10. ryttu3k says:

    Which chemical makes me roll around sobbing and drinking milk by the litre?
    (I can never go to your place for a meal. BUTTER CHICKEN burns my mouth.)

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