Peppers are an essential component of Mexican cuisine with an amazing diversity of different types (Aguilar-Rincón, 2010). Figure 1 shows a list of 64 different types peppers used in Mexico and in which regions of Mexico they are most popular (Diversidad de Chiles en Mejico). In the United States, it would be useful to know which regions of Mexico the customers originate from. This would provide both a sense of the types of peppers they use in their cuisine and a sense of the markets that serve Mexican customers could supply those peppers.
Habaneros are a very hot pepper, originally from the Amazon region of South America, and now grown throughout the Americas. These peppers start out green and then will turn different colors as they mature, including orange, red and yellow. Habaneros are very hot peppers with Scoville Heat units between 200,000 and 350,000 (Bosland, 1996; Long-Solís, 1998; Ramírez et al., 2005). Certain varieties of habaneros were considered the hottest peppers in the world for many years, but have been replaced by an increasing number of newer types of selected peppers, some reaching well over over one million Scoville units.
Habenero peppers, like all peppers, have their center of origin in the tropical Americas and will die with a frost. In fact, habanero, and all Capsicum chinense peppers, have their center of origin in the Brazilian Amazon. Researchers established that Native Brazilians brought C. chinense to the Pacific coast and Spanish colonists brought C. chinense from what is now Peru to the Caribbean and Yucatan of Mexico (Brown, et. al. 2013). C. chinense was selected for high heat in Mexico and the English-speaking Caribbean Islands (e.g. habanero and scotch bonnet). In the Spanish-speaking Caribbean Islands it was selected for sweetness, for example ají dulce peppers. Despite the fact that habanero is originally from the Amazon it grows well in the Northeastern United States, as do most pepper varieties.
In Mexico, habanero peppers are found in most markets, especially in the states of Tabasco, Campeche, Quintana Roo, Sonora, Veracruz, Chiapas y Baja California Sur; however, the state with the largest production is Yucatán, which in 2007 was estimated to have over 1,400 acres in production (SIAP-SAGARPA, 2007).
Habaneros in the Yucatán are found in all markets for sale (Figure 2) and are used in many traditional dishes. Even when a traditiobal dish does not have habanero as an ingredient, there will commonly be a habanero fruit on the plate (Figure 3) and/or a sauce made with habaneros.
For information on production and management of habanero peppers, refer to the New England Vegetable Management Guide and click on "pepper".
Post-Harvest and Packing
Optimum storage temperature for peppers is 45–50 F° and relative humidity between 90–95%. See Table 16: Handling Produce for Higher Quality and Longer Market Life for peppers.
Bosland, P.W. 1996. Capsicums: Innovative uses of an ancient crop. p. 479- 487. In: J. Janick (ed.), Progress in new crops. ASHS Press, Arlington, VA.
Brown, C., C. Clement, P. Epps, E. Luedeling and S. Wichmann. 2013. The Paleobiolinguistics of domesticated chili pepper (Capsicum spp.). Ethnobiology Letters, Society of Ethnobiology. Volume: 4:1‐11.
Long-Solís, J. 1998. Capsicum y cultura: La historia del chile. México. Fondo de Cultura Económica. 2ª. Edición. pp. 77-78.
Ramírez, J., G., S. Góngora, G., L.A. Pérez, M., R. Dzib, E.R., C. Leyva, M. y I. R. Islas, F. 2005. Síntesis de oportunidades e información estratégica para fijar prioridades de investigación y transferencia de tecnología en Chile habanero (Capsicum chinense Jacq). En: Estudio estratégico de la Cadena Agroindustrial: Chile habanero. INIFAP, SAGARPA, ASERCA, CIATEJ, UNACH, CICY, OTTRAS. Mérida, Yucatán, México. 23p.
SIAP-SAGARAPA. 2007. Servicio de Información Agroalimentaria y Pesquera-Secretaria de Agricultura, Ganadera, Desarrollo Rural Pesca. www.siap.gob.mx/.(consultado 23 enero 2013).