Growing the infamous Habanero! Salsa Garden!


One day I was eating Mexican food In a town not to familiar to me when I was introduced to habanero salsa! The rule in a Mexican resteraunt is never ask for hotter nor agree to eat an unfamiliar dish but sometimes by doing so you learn about new things! Perhaps everyone but me knows a lot about the habanero but in case you don’t you should be aware I’m speaking about a pepper up to 140 times hotter than a jalapeño! Yes 140x that is not a typo and my hot location has a tendency to raise hotter peppers than any we’ve seen anywhere else! For those of you unfamiliar with it the taste is rich & citrus like making the dishes flavored with it very complexed and deep. I was naive to try salsa made from only this pepper but aside from running nose and watery eyes I realized I tasted an exquisite flavor that was unique I had never had before. Most pepper experts are familiar with the Scoville scale where this pepper was the reigning champion for many years until hotter varieties such as the ghost pepper moved into first place. The only pepper still more popular than the habenero is the jalapeño. This year I’m finally growing habanero only after having grown jalapeño, Thai hots, and Thai hot dragons. I’m looking forward to delicious dishes prepared with this uniquely flavored pepper but remember one pepper will flavor the pot of salsa if your after flavor! The plant has virtually no leaf damage and my prize peppers are never stolen!


That’s a funny and interesting story Clark. A little bit of pepper goes a long ways with me, so a couple Jalapeno plants are all I need in my garden. I’m even amazed that sometimes insects want to eat on them! When I looked at the Scoville Scale a few years ago I was shocked at how low on the scale Jalapeno was compared to others.

I planted a Poblano pepper a couple years ago and they have almost no heat that I could tell, and they rate well below Jalapeno on the scale too but my wife complained about them having too much heat and even that they bothered her hands when processing.

Just cannot imagine intentionally putting a hotter pepper than Jalapeno in my pie hole :sweat_smile:


As I wait patiently for my habenero’s to change color here are a few pictures of my bell peppers and tomatoes. I grew music garlic as well but my cilantro crop was never planted this year due to the severe drought. I’m very picky on my tomatoes and prefer not to use Roma for salsa because I consider paste tomatoes excellent for Italian dishes but not acidic or flavorful enough for salsa. The only benefit I see to paste tomatoes is they cook down fast because they don’t have much water in them, there are lots of paste tomatoes, they produce lots of tomatoes around the same time. Salsa takes time and patience to make it right so cooking it down faster is not the most important thing to me! I’m very busy much of the time so thankfully my mother still likes to work in the garden and helps me tend tomatoes and peppers as a family activity. The tomatoes are very rich and flavorful this year.


@IowaJer like a lime the habanero is not meant to be eaten alone but rather married with others in salsa to make a happy family of flavor. By itself the habanero turns into torture to the tongue and toxin to the body causing a pepper spray like reaction in all who bravely and foolishly try it! It wins most challenges and even those who conquer it will not try it twice because it will leave a lasting memory. Perhaps I will have enough to keep some back to dry and I can skip growing them next year. The habenero is very delicious but I appreciate your wisdom and reluctance. The jalapeño is more than hot enough for me as well and makes nice dishes but the habanero in my opinion adds a flavor jalapeño can not duplicate. Hard to believe those hot peppers are even related to these very mild California Wonder peppers


Our habaneros are starting to turn orange. We’ll likely end up with numerous gallons of them to freeze. This year has been a great hot pepper growing year for our location. Last year we just didn’t get enough heat. We’ve already given away a gallon of jalapenos and will have many more gallons to freeze/give away. Sometimes my wife gets a bit carried away with planting veggies :crazy_face:


@smsmith That’s a lot of peppers you have! It ’s interesting how some years are so much better for raising things than others. The color of habanero can be different also with some being orange while others are red or brown. Habaneros are a South American Pepper not widely known in this area but the orange are the milder flavored habanero. The red Sabina Habanero and the brown which they call black chocolate habanero are even hotter! I don’t know yet what these are im growing but I’m assuming the orange habanero but like with anything we buy nowadays they just said habanero.


Two years ago we had a decent crop of habaneros, but nothing like this year. Some of those habaneros turned red after turning orange and some didn’t. No idea why. It seemed once they turned red the flavor intensified, but the heat dropped quite a bit.


Clark, In my experience Habaneros are easy, productive, and very rewarding to grow. Most of the really fiery peppers are a bit slow to grow and ripen compared with say Jalapenos but given good soil, ample water, warmth, and enough time you will find the yield can be huge! Flavor is excellent and compatible with a wide range of other ingredients. A favorite way of mine is to slice a few Habaneros very thinly(wear gloves) add some thin sliced onion, a bit of minced garlic, sea salt to taste and lemon juice…allow to marinate stirring from time to time! Exact amounts uncritical. Delicioso!!! A fantastic relish. If you try them this way let us know what you think. Enjoy! Randy/GA


@randy_ga can’t wait to try that dish! Any other recipes or advice in growing them will be greatly appreciated!


What tomatoes do you like for your salsa?


I enjoy a mix of rich flavored meaty tomatoes eg. Big boy, better boy, early girl, Rutgers to name a few. The hot Kansas sun makes the skins like paper so they must be peeled for salsa


Something I learned from my South American in-laws is that you can throw a whole, uncut habanero into lots of things to give a great flavor and bit of heat. They put a whole pepper into soups, rice, etc. Great way to get much of the flavor but very little of the heat.


I’m assuming once the dish is cooked tracking that pepper down and fishing it out is like bay leaves or other things cooked in that way. Excellent information!


We have 3 Hab plants that are getting quite large with lots of pods on them. But, due to mostly wet and cloudy conditions, they are taking their time ripening. Here is one that did ripen, tho.

My taste opinion of Habs are different than yours. My pods have an off-putting after taste to me. I don’t detect any fruity flavors at all, even in some of the orange pods, which I assume are fully ripe. To me they almost have an oily type flavor, hard to describe. Jalapenos have a much better flavor, IMO. I can take one off a plant, slice it up, put a bit of salt on it, and wat it straight up. Warm, yes, but not overly so.

Heat wise, my Habs really don’t seem as hot as folks say- both this year and last, they were pretty warm, but weren’t the hottest peppers from our garden. Serrano and Bulgarian Carrot were much hotter, with the BG being quite intense. I don’t know why the Habs and J’s hadn’t got that hot here, again, it may be the environment they’re in where we don’t get a lot of days with continuous hot, sunny weather. Late summer for us usually means temps in the low 80s with lots of clouds and quite a bit of rain. That’s why most of our tomatoes are still not ripening as fast as they should.

I checked our 7 pot peppers yesterday, and I have a few pods that are about quarter size now. Now those will be interesting, supposedly they have heat around 1.5 million Scoville units, or about 300 times hotter than a jalapeno!

We’re hoping to make a lot of salsa this year, we grow mild bell and banana varieties and hot ones as well, and all kinds of tomatoes. We usually have to buy onions, and get some garlic from the garden. We use apple cider vinegar for our salsa. Last year, due to deer raids, we didn’t have too many tomatoes, so we only made about 12 pints, but this year ought to be better. We are down to our last jar of last year’s batch, so time for some new salsa.


Just picked this mornings harvest and due to the rain was huge!


Habanero infused vodka and passion fruit cocktails, cheers!


I bet that’s good!


To finish ripening late-season (September), stubborn habanero (and others), pull up the whole plant and hang upside down in a warm place.


Habanero is great in moderation. Add one to salsa for a slow burn. Many more varieties of habanero available now in different heat levels and many colors. Also look up a bottled hot sauce named “Yucatan Sunshine habanero pepper sauce”. Pretty good stuff on chicken. I believe they blend the peppers with carrot juice to cut some of the heat.


@Starstryke Thank you for that information I can’t wait to try some of the new variations. I’m not sure yet how these will turn out .
@subdood_ky_z6b I may be disappointed with the way those that I raise taste or again I may love them. I suspect since I enjoy the ones I’ve eaten it may be all about the variety grown and not the soil they are grown in as much. Peppers do tend to run much hotter here which we have found out the hard way with all that we grew.