Scotch bonnets are possibly of more interest to our customers than Easter bonnets so let’s have a look at this round, red fiery lovely. Originating in the Caribbean, Scotch Bonnet chillies are said to resemble a Tam O’Shanter hat, hence the name. Nothing at all like a pretty Easter bonnet decorated with wild flowers!
Scotch bonnets, or Scotty bons, are one of the very hottest chillies reaching 350,000 to 400,000 SHU on the Scoville Scale. This is a measure of the heat in chillies and was developed back in 1912 by an American pharmacist, Wilbur Scoville. Most sweet peppers won’t even feature on the Scoville Scale.
Chilies contain a chemical compound called capsaicin which is an irritant and causes that well-known burning sensation. The Scoville Scale measures the level of capsaicin in different chilli varieties and this determines the number of Scoville heat units (SHU). Capsaicin is used as pepper spray for personal defense and also on occasions for riot control, so it really is pretty powerful stuff.
Other more sophisticated measures have been introduced since but the Scoville Scale remains the most widely used indicator as to the heat of those red hot chilli peppers.
Although hot and spicy Scotch bonnets also have a sweet smoky taste. Closely related to the habanero they feature in many Caribbean dishes and are perfect for spicy salsas, jerk chicken dishes and BBQ spare ribs. If you have a bumper crop any excess chilies can be frozen, dried or pickled.
From sowing your Scotch bonnet seeds to making your first salsa will take around 130 days so you’ll need to start early. Perhaps a better way is to buy a grafted plant, the time to cropping will be greatly reduced and you will have ready-grown strong healthy plants. Just pot them on and grow in a sunny position.
A word of warning – do please wear gloves when picking and handling your Scotch Bonnets and do keep them well away from your eyes. They really are scorchio.