How Hot is your Habaneros?

Updated on 01 December 2010 | 0 Comments

Cooks unused to working with chillies imagine that's all there is to the chilli: a colour, which is linked to its spiciness.

Recipes which use chilli so often call for just “red” or “green” chillies, that cooks unused to working with them imagine that’s all there is to the chilli: a colour, which is linked to its spiciness. And that is apparently that.

Not so; since we began cultivating chillies more than 6,000 years ago, their varieties grew almost as quickly as they skipped across the globe, from South and Central America and the Caribbean to Spain, and from there to Portugal and across to Asia and eastern Europe.

To begin incorporating chillies into your cooking as more than an afterthought, find a specialist supplier and get acquainted with different varieties.

The Mid Devon Chillifarm sells Ring of Fires, which you’ll recognise as the typical long, thin, red chilli, and Cayenne Pepper, the slightly plumper red variety.

It also sells mild green Padron peppers (though watch out, as one in ten is hot) – fry in olive oil and cloak in a good shake of quality flaked sea salt for a classic tapas plate; and the yellow or orange Aji Pepper, a hot chilli indispensable in Peruvian cooking.

The season for growing in the UK is ending, so you can pick up some bargains at the moment, but it’s also a good time to stock up on dried chillies to get you through the winter.

Dry River Chillies sell both fresh and dry, and the dry chillies are good for early experimentation.  There are hot red chillies for spicy Chinese cooking, dried Scotch Bonnets to warm up any stews and soups, and sweet Pasillas and Anchos to blend with time and love into thick Mexican-inspired sauces.

Little Green Men sell 26 varieties and even chilli beer and chilli cheese, which I haven’t tried so can’t vouch for. They also sell seeds, as do Chilli Seeds so you could have a go at readying your own for next year.

Most people think the seeds are the hottest part of the chilli. In fact it’s the small amount of pith or pulp you find inside. Don’t feel you have to discard this – throw it in before serving to show you mean business.

But if you are unduly worried about the strength of the new chillies you’re trying, you can check their fieriness in Scolville units. The mild Padrons, for example, pack just 1,000 units (the hot ones come in around 12,000). Red and orange Habaneros are at the other end of the scale, with 150,000 and 300,000 units.


Also worth your attention

One-Pot Chilli Growing Kit

The ChileFoundry Blog

Award winning Dartmoor Chilli Farm


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