Scotch Bonnet Chiles
Scotch Bonnet Chiles, Capsicum chinense, are one of the highlights of Jamaican cuisine. Jamaica is most famous in the United States for its reggae music and incredible athletes, but it is also home to another global powerhouse- the Scotch Bonnet! This chile gets its name from the shape of the chile, what with its squished appearance resembling a Scotsman's bonnet, or a Tam o'Shanter hat. It is important to note however, that sometimes the chiles don't have a very pronounced bonnet shape.
The Scotch Bonnet may also be called the Bahama Mama, the Jamaican Hot, the Bahamian, the Martinique Pepper, Boabs Bonnet, Scotty Bons, Bonney Peppers, or Caribbean Red Peppers.
It was with the arrival of Christopher Columbus to Cuba that we begin to talk about the history of the Scotch Bonnet chile in Jamaican cuisine. During 1494, Columbus was promised gold, diamonds, and other riches if he left Cuba and went to Xamayca, now known as Jamaica, instead. The people of Cuba were trying to get rid of Columbus and his bloodthirsty crew by lying about the treasures that awaited him elsewhere. Unfortunately, the Taino people within the Great Antilles region were nearly entirely wiped out by the Europeans after they began resisting the European intruders. Some of their culture still survives today, including the Scotch Bonnet chiles in Jamaica and city names like "Havana" in Cuba.
The chile got its colonial name from Scottish settlers who thought it greatly resembled the Tam o'Shanter hat from their home country. Prior to this name, it was more commonly called the "goat pepper" because it is said to smell strongly like a male goat. This should not be confused with the Goat's Horn chile, a different chile with a different body style and flavor profile altogether.
Being the first Caribbean chile to become known by its specific name, it has become a very popular export for Jamaica. The chile is grown all over Jamaica, though the country does face numerous challenges with the chile as they are barely able to meet the high demand within their own country. So, the international demand creates a bit of its own challenge too.
Scotch Bonnets are susceptible to many diseases and are a favorite to many pests, such as pepper budworms or aphids. Ideal soils to grow these chiles in will be sandy or loamy, and the plants should have direct, full sunlight. They require a decent amount of water and like to get their water in the morning, as direct sunlight tends to dry out the roots by the afternoon. Watering them at night or later in the day makes their roots vulnerable to root rot. Scotch Bonnets typically only take about 12 weeks to grow to the point of being able to be harvested. For the best flavor, the chiles should be picked when they are still green or have very little yellowing on them. If left to mature fully, they will usually turn yellow or red, though you may also see an orange one! These chiles must be dried within five days of being picked or they will rapidly deteriorate in quality.
Our Scotch Bonnet Chiles are from Uganda.
The Habanero chile is often mistakenly sold as the Scotch Bonnet because they look similar and they are closely related, but the two are only cousins, not twins! They are two varieties of the same species, though they have different pod types and color variations. The subtle differences are more focused in the flavor that varies greatly between the two.
The Habanero has a mango or apricot-like fruity flavor, with a floral aroma while the Scotch Bonnet is slightly sweeter with a more tomato and apple-like fruity flavor but isn't as hot as the Habanero. The Habanero has a rating of 150,000 to 325,000 SHU and the Scotch Bonnet has a typical range of anywhere from 200,000 to 300,000 SHU.
Our Scotch Bonnet Chiles have a heat range of 200,000-300,000 SHU.
Scotch Bonnets are easy to dismiss as a spicy hot chile and just leave them at that, but they have so much more to offer than just heat! They are used worldwide in a variety of cuisines and are frequently found in hot sauces and condiments. They are particularly popular in the foods of the Barbados, Haiti, Jamaica, Suriname, Trinidad, and West Africa. You may be most familiar with the presence of Scotch Bonnets in the very famous jerk chicken and jerk pork from Jamaican cuisine. In Jamaica, Scotch Bonnet chiles are also used to make escovitch sauce, a condiment that tastes best on fish and seafood-based dishes.
The Scotch Bonnet chile is frequently soaked in vinegar for a period of time to make "spicy vinegar," an early type of hot sauce that is still made today.
Our Scotch Bonnet Chile are wonderful to have in any well-stocked kitchen. If you love spicy foods, you will love having Scotch Bonnet chiles to break up yourself or to add to soups, stews, sauces, or any other dish you can dream up whole.
Remember, when handling these chiles it is best to wear gloves and wash your hands thoroughly after you've finished cooking. They are extremely hot and they can hurt your eyes or mucous membranes if any of the capsaicin from the chiles comes in contact with those parts of your body.
Scotch Bonnet Chiles are slightly smokey and fruity with a hint of sweetness and undertones of apple, cherry and tomato.
Though they are not the same, Habaneros are close enough in flavor and heat to replace Scotch Bonnets in a recipe when you are in a pinch!
Serving Size1-2 chiles, 1g
Amount Per Serving
% Daily Value*