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What is a Habanero Chile?

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  • Written By: Anna T.
  • Edited By: J.T. Gale
  • Last Modified Date: 28 November 2016
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The habanero chile is generally considered to be one of the hottest chile peppers in the world. Habaneros are typically used in salsa, sauces, and various seasonings. This type of chile is usually green until it ripens; when ripe, the color may change to one of any variety of colors, including red, white, orange, salmon, and chocolate. Most mature habanero chiles are between 1.5 to 2 inches (about 3.8 to 5 cm) long and may be round, oblong, or lantern-shaped.

Measuring the hotness of peppers is often done using Scoville units. Wilbur L. Scoville, a pharmacologist, developed the system in 1912. This system may not be completely accurate because at the time, the results were dependent on a panel of testers who sampled various pepper extracts diluted with water. The testers tried to find out how much water was needed to dilute each extract until the heat could no longer be detected. According to this method, the habanero chile rates at about 200,000 to 300,000 Scoville units.

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Many people describe the flavor of a habanero chile as being quite distinctive and somewhat fruity until the heat kicks in. There are several different varieties of habanero chiles, including Red Savina™ and Manzana. The Red Savina™ is often considered the hottest variety of habanero, rating at around 580,000 Scoville units. Manzana habaneros are usually larger than most habaneros and rate at around 15,000 to 50,000 on the Scoville scale. Scotch Bonnet is a type of cultivar widely considered similar to the habenero in both flavor and heat, but is most often found growing in the Caribbean Islands rather than in Latin America or North America like the habanero chile.

Havana may be where the habanero chile originated because "habanero" means "from Havana." The Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico is normally where the greatest majority of the world's habaneros are grown and harvested. In the United States, habaneros are commonly grown in Texas and California. Belize and Costa Rica are generally known for producing habaneros as well.

Sauces and salsas that contain extremely hot peppers, such as the habanero, typically come with a warning label on the bottle. This is usually a requirement for companies that produce the hot sauces in order to avoid possible lawsuits from consumers. Most of the warnings state that getting the sauce in the eyes or on the face could result in injury, and that hands should be washed thoroughly in soapy water if they come in contact with the sauce.

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