The white habanero, also known as the “Chinese” pepper, the” Yucatan White” or the “Peruvian” is the penultimate in hot when considering the habanero family. Subspecies also include the Caribbean “White Bullet” and a larger variety, the “White Giant”. Regular habaneros register an average 150,000 to 280,000 Scoville Heat Units, the common heat index for rating heat in food. The white habanero registers a mind numbing, mouth blistering rating of 300,000 units, or more. For reference, the common Jalapeno has a rating of approximately 30,000.
Pinpointing the origin of anything in nature with an age dating back to beyond 6500b.c would be extremely hard. A task made considerably harder with the knowledge that the plant is so special; every culture it encountered became so enamored, they made it their namesake? The aforementioned date, 6500bc, is a reference to the earliest discovery of the white habanero in the archaeological record. The discovery was made in excavated communities in South America; therefore, the assumption is, this is the plants origin. The wide variety of colloquial names also gives a hint of the direction in cultivation geographically this plant, due to its special nature, made.
The American use of this plant confines itself, almost entirely, to the hot sauce realm with some forays into salad dressings and in small quantities, due to its astronomically high Scoville units, in cooked food. As another indication of its original heritage, in South American regions, this amazing pepper is a staple. The names “Yucatan White” and “The Peruvian” are direct correlations to how prevalent and widely desired these surprisingly rare peppers are to these cultures.
The rarity is perhaps due to cultivation of this plant outside its indigenous regions or areas of initial cultivation; therefore, rare in this case, is subjective. The plants grown in this region are very hardy and produce very prolifically. In areas where it is not as prolific, one must take certain precautions. First, the plants must start indoors and planting should take place after the first frost, therefore approximately two months prior, planting the seeds should occur. The plants must then endure a hardening process before exposure to these particular climates. Overwatering is detrimental to maintaining a healthy plant, but not watering or dry conditions will cause the Scoville Heat Units, or “SHU’s” to rise. This interplay between wet and dry must really be a consideration in a plant whose “SHU’s” are already unbearable in most cases. Enjoy!
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