Sure you know what a habanero is but did you know that are quite a few different varieties of habs? While we love the tried and true flavor of the common orange habanero we love to get our hands on the Red Savina Habaneros and especially the Chocolate Habaneros.
The Chocolate Habanero, Capsicum chinense, is also known as “Congo Black”, “Black Habanero” and “Jamaican Chocolate Habanero”. It’s one of the hotter chile peppers (without burning your face off) and like the Red Savina, the Chocolate Hab packs a serious kick. From 1994 – 2006 the Red Savina Habanero was considered the hottest chile pepper in the world – today it barely cracks the top 10!. Many chileheads actually feel that the mildest Chocolate Habanero which comes in at 400,000 – 575,000 SHU(Scovile Heat Unit) is hotter than the hottest Red Savina Habanero which tips the scales at 175,000-375,000 SHU.
Chocolate Habaneros take longer to grow than other varieties of Habaneros but they’re worth waiting for. They also grow a bit larger than other habs and come in at approximately 3” long by 2” wide. They start off an emerald green and mature to a luscious chocolate brown color approximately 100 days after transplanting. The Chocolate Habanero thrives in hot climates and is especially popular in Mexican Cuisine.
There's some debate as to the origination of the habanero – some believe that is native to Cuba and was brought to Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula where it has became a staple chile. Others believe it is indigenous to the Amazon region of South America. The camp that believes that this was originally a Cuban grown chile are of the opinion that it is actually named after the Cuban city La Habana (which we in the US know as Havana). To add even more fuel to the fire several Mexican horticulturists have noted that the habanero is the only chile in the Yucatán region that does not have a Mayan name. This would also validate the theory that it was transplanted in that region at some point.
The heat and flavor of the Habanero has been enjoyed for a very long time. An archaeological dig in Peru has discovered one domesticated habanero that has been dated to be 8,500 years old. A second discovery found in a Guitarrero Cave in the Peruvian highlands found the intact fruit of a small domesticated habanero that was dated to 6500 BC.
The Chocolate Habanero is a favorite variety for lovers of habanero heat. The Chocolate Hab is characterized its waxy brown, thin skin and is a close relative of the Scotch Bonnet. Today, the largest producer of Chocolate Habaneros is Mexico but they are also grown in Belize, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Panama and the United States (including California, Idaho, Texas and Virginia). Our Chocolate Habs are grown in Virginia. Each area will produce slightly different versions of these chiles in both flavor and heat level intensity.
Cooks love to use Chocolate Habs to spice up numerous dishes and these really shine when added to salsas, Stir-fries and sauces – especially Mexican moles and Jamaican Jerk Sauce. If using them in a salsa we’ve found the best results when paring them with earthier and more pungent fruits like raisins and apricots.
Chocolate Habs are still habaneros, so you can expect that in addition to the spicy heat you’ll find a fruity sweet profile. We also find that Chocolate Habaneros have hints of earthiness and smokiness. I if you’re using Chocolate Habs for the first time keep in mind that a little will go a long way so plan accordingly.
To reconstitute cover them with warm water and let soak for about 10 minutes. Then pour off the excess water. Or you if you’re making a sauce you can add them early to the cooking process.
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