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are scotch bonnets and habanero really the same thing?

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I've read both - some say they are the same, some say they are different, but make good substitutes for eachother. I know supermarkets will use the names synonomously depending on which demographic group they market to. However, are they really the same thing? Are there subtle differences? Can one tell them apart visually?

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  1. j
    Jim Washburn

    From "Peppers: The Domesticated Capsicums," New Edition, 1995, by Jean Andrews, page 131:

    "In 1983 when this book first went to press, the general consensus was that Scotch Bonnet was just another name for Habanero... A trip to Antigua to visit with Dr. Brian Cooper, chief agronomist with Caribbean Agricultural and Development Institute (CARDI) was well worth the effort, for he convinced me that they are two distinct cultivars."

    Jim

    2 Replies
    1. re: Jim Washburn
      j
      Jim Washburn

      Dave DeWitt also says they are different. See link.

      Jim

      Link: http://www.fiery-foods.com/dave/profi...

      1. re: Jim Washburn

        And Dave does know his peppers!

        John

    2. Yeah, they are different, but the same species. When ripe, one of them looks sort of like a little squashed reddish orange lantern. I can't remember which. I haven't worked with either of them.

      23 Replies
      1. re: Pat Hammond

        Scotch Bonnets are the squashed ones. They tend to be smaller than Habaneros too. Not to be confused with the other relative of Habanero and Scotch Bonnets, Jamaican Hots, bright red and smaller than Habanero.

        1. re: Pablo

          Do they taste similar? I understand that each has a lovely flavor. I doubt I'll ever find out for myself!

          1. re: Pat Hammond

            My experiences:
            Habanero - tropical fruit flavors. I love em!
            Scotch Bonnets - smoky flavor and some fruit flavor.
            Beware Habanero, is hottest fresh, it can take your breath away! If you grow them, good way to keep them is pickle or dry them.

            1. re: Pablo

              You make them sound delicious. Do you eat them raw? Cooked into something? I really can't imagine how one gets past all those Skoville units to taste anythiing.

              1. re: Pat Hammond

                I prefer raw, you get the most flavor. In a ceviche is perfect, or a topping for grilled lobster. Just for the record, I am white half American half Italian born in Africa, don't want you think I am some super Mexican Habanero chomping freak! They are euphoric!

                1. re: Pablo

                  I like to mince them up for chocolate chip cookies. The kids love em. They are hot...but then that sweet chocolate comes to the rescue.

                  1. re: lisamae

                    That's quite interesting! DO you just add them to a regular recipe, like Toll House? How many per recipe, so that they don't kill the average person?

                2. re: Pat Hammond

                  I just got a cookbook from Walkerswood, a co-op outfit in Jamaica that bottles and sells jerk seasoning and other Jamaican goodies. Quite a few of the recipes call for a Scotch bonnet pepper to be laid on top of a simmering dish (as for instance peas and rice, their version of Moros y Cristianos) without letting it pop open, and then removing it before serving. I did do the p&r recipe, and the lovely flavor and very subtle heat did in fact come through.

                  A friend in Nashville whose dad grows habaneros usually puts one into a big pot of chili or of beans, and the flavor and warmth are nice indeed.

                  Do not eat one raw unless you'd enjoy turning into The Human Torch...

                  1. re: Will Owen

                    How big a pot of beans?? I once accidentally chomped down on a bird chili, which I understand is truly the hottest. Thought I'd die. The waitres, good company gal that she was, told me to drink beer. I needed help getting home! Beer does not help.

                    1. re: Pat Hammond

                      Vodka would have.

                      1. re: Pat Hammond

                        If you want the flavor of the chinense peppers without the heat, look in your store for "aji dulce" which are small, crumpled chiles from light green to red sold in hispanic stores and groceries catering to people from the islands. That is what the puerto ricans use in their sofritos.

                        Some pix of aji dulce are attached below.

                        I use 1 scotch bonnet or habenero to season a whole pot of black beans (1 lb beans). that makes it quite spicy You can make a slice in the chile and put it in the pot whole (obviously removing it before serving) or do what I do, deseed, cut into tiny bits and saute with onions, garlic and peppers added later on in cooking.Habeneros are great candidates for freezing - much easier to deseed and chop when frozen or use just part of a chile. I cant imagine using more than one of these in a particular dish.

                        chiles are very variable in flavor and heat - I recently bought a pack of "scotch bonnets" at my NYC grocery that had neither fragrance or spiciness.

                        Link: http://www.chileplants.com/search.asp...

                        1. re: jen kalb

                          I read a year or so ago that evil scientists had modified habaneros the same way they had modified jalapenos - stripping them of all their heat (and value, in my opinion). You may have gotten a bunch of that neutered variety. It's a shame.

                          1. re: adamclyde

                            The scientists are merely catering to a market saturated with limp-wristed floozies who can't take any heat or excitment. Blame the silly consumers.

                          2. re: jen kalb

                            I've decided to first try the real deal, Jen. Tomorrow is my shopping day, so I plan to see what I can find. Thanks for this post. Very interesting! Good pictures in the link too.

                          3. re: Pat Hammond

                            He usually made a couple of pounds at a time and then froze half (he and his then-girlfriend didn't mind eating the same thing all week). I think he used one pepper per pound. He did NOT set it gently on top, but let it fall apart and disperse...those were GOOD beans. Made great burritos, too.

                        2. re: Pat Hammond

                          Forgot to mention, riper the better tasting. Do not get green ones. Orange, Red, or Chocolate are preferable.

                          1. re: Pablo

                            The riper the hotter, too? You're my hero!

                          2. re: Pat Hammond
                            m
                            Marcia M. D'A.

                            They are delicious, Pat. Very hot but great flavor along with the heat. I make a tomato soup with them that calls for half a pepper but I use a whole one. The heat does vary from pepper to pepper, and when I get good ones, I freeze them.

                            1. re: Marcia M. D'A.

                              Oh, man. I'm weakening. If I try them, I'll report back. I think my Mexican market has them. I've admired them, but just haven't worked up the nerve to try them. I do have a good tolerance for heat though. Can your soup be served chilled? If not, I'll wait until the weather is cooler. Would you post the recipe on Home Cooking, please?

                              Link: http://www.chowhound.com/boards/cooki...

                              1. re: Pat Hammond
                                m
                                Marcia M. D'A.

                                Hi Pat, I'll be glad to post the recipe on the Home Cooking board, but I warn you...it's very rich.
                                It is a speciality of a small restaurant we like, and the chef was kind enough to give me the recipe. It tastes just like hers does, too, and it couldn't be easier. Just be careful to start with a small amount of the pepper.
                                I've never served it cold but I suppose it could be done.

                                1. re: Marcia M. D'A.

                                  Rich is perfectly fine with me. Thanks!

                    2. re: Pat Hammond

                      Wow... left for a day and got some great responses.

                      Pat - you really need to head on down to that market in new rochelle and pick up a few. The weird thing about habaneros (or scotch bonnets, whichever the heck I've been getting), is that the fruitiness of them almost makes you not realize that your tongue is burning.

                      I bought a bunch from a farmer in Stamford the other day. I used about 6 of them in a jerk paste for chicken that I smoked. Then I used two others in a black-bean, grilled corn salad.

                      The jerk chicken had some good heat, but if you don't like it, you can take down the heat by not eating the skin. The black bean salad was hot, but not overbearingly so. The fruitiness of the habs/SBs came through as much as the heat. That is what is great about them. Even my 2-year old daughter loved it. (though, she is a garbage disposal and will eat anything, regardless of scoville units. I love that...)

                      Good luck and definitely give it a try. As others suggested, seed and devein, then you get more flaver/per scoville unit.

                      Cheers - Adam

                      1. re: adamclyde

                        Tomorrow's the day I shop in New Rochelle! Hope I can find some nice ones. Not sure what I'll do with them yet, but I'm excited! Thanks.

                    3. If a botanist says they ain't the same, then they ain't - all I know is the ones I've grown, picked or bought were as likely to be called one as the other, and they were all squishy-looking little orange blobs. Very distinctive (and excellent) flavor, more heat than any sane person can handle. If you're going to trim them of seeds and ribs, handle only with heavy rubber gloves, wash gloved hands thoroughly, then wash ungloved hands thoroughly... and keep your fingers away from any sensitive spot on the face or body for at least twelve hours afterwards. AMHIK...

                      1. The following article may or may not answer your question.

                        Link: http://www.fiery-foods.com/dave/profi...

                        1. Don't think they're the same thing. Habaneros are supposed to be hotter than scotch bonnets. But both peppers are supposed to pack a lot of heat, so one can probably substitue for the other if needed.