Sweet Habanero Chile Peppers
Inventory, lb : 0
Sweet habanero peppers look very much like the extremely spicy habanero pepper, but lack one important aspect - the intense heat. Their pods have a distinctive lantern-like shape with slight wrinkling. They are petite, a bit larger than their spicy counterparts, and measure no bigger than two inches in length and one to two inches in width. The thin, crunchy walls of the pepper are juicy and house a small edible seed bank. Sweet habanero peppers ripen from a medium green to a bright yellow-orange with a glossy, waxy exterior. The color is a bit lighter than the deep orange of its spicier cousin. Sweet habanero peppers have a citrusy floral flavor, and an aroma similar to apricots. Contrary to the name “sweet” the peppers are not free of capsaicin; they have a little bit of heat which presents itself in the back of the mouth and throat. They have an average heat rating of about 850 Scoville Heat Units.
Sweet Habanero peppers are available in the summer and fall.
The Sweet habanero pepper is nearly identical to the popular spicy, orange habanero pepper in both appearance and aroma, but not in heat level. Botanically, the small, wrinkled peppers are classified as Capsicum chinense, a group often referred to as ‘yellow lantern chiles’ for their shape. This species produces some of the hottest pepper varieties known to man, and only a handful that are considered mild (none of which were commercially available prior to 2002). The Sweet habanero pepper was developed to bring out the natural flavors that are often overshadowed by the intensity of the heat.
Sweet habanero peppers contain high amounts of potassium and vitamin C; however, the immature, green peppers have higher amounts of vitamin C. The pigments responsible for the yellow-orange color of the peppers also offer small amounts of vitamin A and beta-carotene. The small peppers contain a low amount of capsaicin, a phytonutrient that provides both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.
The much less-intense Sweet habanero peppers can be used in a wider variety of applications because of its mild flavor. Add Sweet habanero peppers to salads or salsas for a little bit of spice, and a lot of flavor. The floral, citrusy flavors of a habanero come out more in the Sweet habanero pepper without the distraction of the intense spiciness. Sweet habaneros are a little larger than their spicy counterparts, so they can be stuffed with meat and breadcrumbs or with cheese and then baked. Roast Sweet habaneros and remove the charred skin, add them to tacos or serve alongside braised meats. Store Sweet habanero peppers in the refrigerator for up to a week.
The same Texas A&M researchers that created the TAM Mild habanero pepper also created the first mild jalapeno pepper. Working with seeds obtained from various sources, researchers have to plant initial test fields and then analyze the resulting peppers for various characteristics including size, lightness, yield and capsaicin levels. The Texas Agricultural Experiment Station in Weslaco, Texas is also working on disease-resistant habaneros and nutritionally-enhanced bell peppers.
Sweet Habanero peppers have their origin in the American Southwest. In fact, there are three mild habanero pepper varieties that were released in the early 2000's. In 1998, a researcher at the New Mexico Capsicum Accession Germplasm Repository received seeds from an anonymous source for an “aji orange” as well as a red variety. Aji is Spanish for ‘chile pepper’ and is the nomenclature used for peppers from South America (C. baccatum). The seed was grown in trials at the Chile Pepper Institute in Las Cruces, NM, and after a few generations they were ready to release their new, mild habanero pepper. Named for the pepper’s New Mexico breeding, it was first introduced in 2002 under the name NuMex Suave Orange. ‘Suave’ is Spanish for smooth or mellow, a reference to the mild nature of the pepper. Around the same time, the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station was crossing a Yucatan habanero with seed obtained from the USDA Plant Introduction Station in Griffin, Ga. The seed from the USDA was said to have high yield and low pungency. After a five years of cross-breeding, back-breeding and growing in test fields, another mild habanero was released, called the TAM (for Texas A&M) Mild habanero. The third pepper is the Trinidad Perfume chile pepper, also a habanero-type, that is from the island of Trinidad in the Caribbean. The Trinidad Perfume peppers give off a perfume-like scent when cooked, and rate less than 500 Scoville Heat Units. Mild habanero chile peppers are gaining in popularity, and can generally be found at local farmer’s markets and in home gardens.
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