Over the years, we’ve tried and failed to tolerate the scorching heat levels of the habanero. The Scoville Heat Units range from 100,000 to 350,000 — which is anywhere from 12 to 100 times hotter than a jalapeno. We’d really like to be able to enjoy their citrusy flavor without pain.
The first mild habanero I tried was Zavory, which I grew several years ago when we lived in Raleigh, NC. Zavory is described as a “heatless” habanero type pepper having only 100 Scoville Units of heat. The plants grew and bore a lot of peppers. I roasted some of them when ripe, and was disappointed in the flavor. Both my husband Al and I thought there was an aftertaste that resembled old socks, although we have never eaten old socks! We composted the whole harvest. Perhaps it is like cilantro — it tastes differently to different people. I have recently read these peppers are at their best raw or lightly heated, so the aftertaste may have come from full roasting. Whether that was the case or not, I hope to be more impressed by the two habanero style peppers I chose for this year.
Many related but milder peppers have been brought into production, and breeders have continued to develop varieties touted to taste like a habanero with little or no heat. When the seed catalogs started arriving I couldn’t help noticing these newer peppers with their enticing descriptions. So of course, I ordered some.
My choices are from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds:
Arroz con Pollo (Capsicum chinense) originated in Eastern Cuba and is one of many seasoning peppers grown throughout the Caribbean. They are generally have mild or no heat and are used in many Caribbean dishes. They are also added to spice pastes used for seasoning, thus the name.
Habanada (Capsicum annum) was bred by well-known organic plant breeder Michael Mazourek. It is described as having all the fruity and floral notes of a habanero with no heat.
In a few months I will start these seeds indoors to have the largest plants possible when our frost-free date arrives. Meanwhile, they will be stored cool and dry. We will definitely do a comparison taste test with an actual habanero. Below is the tiny sliver of a habanero I can tolerate and still taste the flavor!