Have you had your habanero today?? http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/cctimes/living/14459286.htm?source=rss
Habaneros add some spice to garden
By Nancy O'Donnell
ALBANY TIMES UNION
Capsicum chinense Jacquin, aka Chile Pepper "Habanero," aka extremely hot: Translated, "habanero" means "from Havana," which is where these peppers are believed to have originated.
If you love habaneros, you might want to consider thanking Christopher Columbus, as many historians believe he may be responsible for discovering these spicy little gems and introducing them to European gardeners upon his return to Spain. Today habaneros are commercially grown throughout the Yucatan, where annual harvests of 1,500 tons (not pounds, tons) are the norm.
In addition to the Yucatan, Belize, Costa Rica, California and Texas weigh in with some pretty hefty harvests. But the best part is, you can grow them very easily in a gardens.
As with all peppers, habaneros are warm season crops; they love the soil to be warm and the air temperature to be heating up before they are planted. Depending on where you live, you may need to hold off awhile to put them in. Garden centers sell plants, or you can start your own.
If you're growing your own, get a move on, because they need seven weeks or so to get established.
Again, like other pepper varieties, habaneros prefer partial to full sun and a well-drained, organically rich soil, with a pH around 6.0. Plant in the vegetable garden, flower garden or in a planter on your patio. These are perfect plants for gardeners with space constraints.
When fall rolls around, try bringing one or two indoors and placing them in a sunny window. Habaneros are naturally perennial when grown in tropical and sub-tropical locations, so with a little luck you can be picking peppers straight through until next spring.
Immature habaneros will be green; as they ripen they'll begin to turn a beautiful orange or red, making the plant strikingly ornamental. The peppers themselves are about 2 inches in length. The "heat" or substance that makes any chile pepper hot is a compound found inside the pepper called capsaicin. Many believe it's the seeds themselves that are hot, but actually it's the lining along the inside of the pepper that the seed clings to that packs the wallop.
However, the seeds can provide a kick. Use habaneros raw, add to recipes or do as my parents do: dehydrate them, then crush into a chunky powder. However, you must use extreme caution when handling cut peppers, as the capsaicin is nothing to take lightly.
A neighbor of my parent's ended up in the emergency room because she got capsaicin in her eyes when she accidentally rubbed them with her hands. So double wash hands thoroughly after preparing hot peppers. How hot is hot? In 1912 a pharmacologist named Wilbur L. Scoville got the ingenious idea to measure the heat of a chile pepper. In his test a human would taste a mixture of slightly sweetened water and chili pepper extract. The test continued, each time increasing the amount of sugar in the water until the "heat" from the extract was neutralized. The measurement of sugar was deemed the "Scoville Unit." The more sugar needed, the hotter the pepper and the higher the Scoville Unit. Today this testing is done by machine but the measurement is still recorded in Scoville Units.
To give you an idea of a few different peppers, here are their readings: Habaneros score between 200,000 and 300,000 units, cayenne comes in at 35,000, jalapeno around 3,500 to 4,000 and green bells at 0. But for some, even 300,000 Scoville units isn't hot enough.
As the story goes, a grower named Frank Garcia was plowing under a field of orange habanero peppers in 1989 when he spotted an odd, lone red fruited plant. By 1994, after years of selective breeding of the red fruited plant's seeds, the Guinness Book of Records declared "Red Savina" the hottest pepper on earth with a Scoville rating of 577,000 units. If you dare, and I already can list a number of my husband's friends who will, you may order "Red Savina" products at their Web site, www.redsavina.com.
For those of you with a deer who feel comfortable calling your garden a smorgasbord, a habanero pepper spray made from homegrown ground peppers works wonders.
We simply boil about a quart of water, then take the pan outdoors (even the fumes are potent), and place about a tablespoon of ground habaneros in a piece of cheesecloth and let it seep like a tea for an hour or so. Wearing rubber gloves, remove the cheesecloth, being careful not to touch your eyes. Once cooled, pour into a hand sprayer and apply in early evening to plants deer are known to frequent. Believe me, their party is over. Just re-apply after a rain.