The habanero chili comes from the Amazon, from which it was spread, reaching Mexico. A specimen of a domesticated habanero plant, dated at 8,500 years old, was found at an archaeological site in Peru.
An intact fruit of a small domesticated habanero, found in pre-ceramic levels in Guitarrero Cave in the Peruvian highlands, was dated to 6500 BC. The habanero chili was disseminated by Spanish colonists to other areas of the world, to the point that 18th-century taxonomists mistook China for its place of origin and called it Capsicum chinense ("the Chinese pepper").
Today, the largest producer is the Yucatán Peninsula, in Mexico. Habaneros are an integral part of Yucatecan food, accompanying most dishes, either in natural form or purée or salsa. Other modern producers include Belize, Panama, Costa Rica, Colombia, Ecuador, and parts of the United States, including Texas, Idaho, and California.
The Scotch bonnet is often compared to the habanero, since they are two varieties of the same species, but they have different pod types. Both the Scotch bonnet and the habanero have thin, waxy flesh. They have a similar heat level and flavor. Both varieties average around the same level of pungency, but the actual degree varies greatly from one fruit to another according to genetics, growing methods, climate, and plant stress.
In 1999, the habanero was listed by Guinness World Records as the world's hottest chili, but it has since been displaced by other peppers. The Bhut jolokia (or ghost pepper) and Trinidad Moruga Scorpion have since been identified as native Capsicum chinense subspecies even hotter than the habanero. Breeders constantly crossbreed subspecies to attempt to create cultivars that will break the record on the Scoville scale. One example is the Carolina Reaper, a cross between a Bhut jolokia pepper with a particularly pungent red habanero.
Species: Capsicum Chinense
Heat Level: 100,000-350,000
Origin: Amazon, reaching Mexico
Days to Harvest: 90-100 Days
Seeds per Packet: 10+ Pepper Seeds
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