Does Size Matter?

Happy thursday everyone! Today I want to talk to you about my plants and the littlest habanero that could:


This tiny thing was the first fruit on my orange habanero plant, obtained as a seedling from the South Devon Chilli Farm.

Between pests and weather conditions this year, the plant has had a pretty rough time but it’s come through and given me chillies all the same. Ripe, colourful and tasty ones. They’ve just been a little stunted in size.

Which got me to thinking. There are countless myths surrounding the size of a chilli and its heat but what’s the real answer? Is bigger better or is smaller a scorcher?

Well, if my first pea-sized hab is anything to go by, it’s the former.

It was sweet, juicy and oh so fresh. Far superior in flavour to anything from a supermarket or market stall but very mild. It barely scraped a



which makes it the mildest habanero I’ve ever had. And a good snack.

But perhaps it’s just the variety. As any school science teacher would tell you, you need a control sample to be sure. I’ve had 3 other fruit now from the same plant and every single one of them rated a



which is comparable to a ghost pepper sauce but towards the milder end of fresh habaneros. Perhaps its the growing conditions or perhaps orange habs really are milder than other colours. Either way I’d expect these to make a high three level of sauce.

So the idea of bigger being hotter holds true here but how about elsewhere?


Though you might not know by looking at it, the little beastie beside my caramel ghost pepper is a big sun habanero. Or a small sun habanero in this particular case. It’s not nearly as tiny as the orange one above but it’s still pretty small for a Hab. That ghost isn’t any larger than your average chilli.

And yet it’s the hottest habanero I’ve ever had, coming in around the




Not only is it hard to eat from the heat though but it also tastes like an under-ripe mix of yellow and green bell peppers. It’s truly vile.

Regardless of whether it’s a good chilli or not, though, this sun hab throws a real wrench into the bigger is hotter theory as it’s not an extra hot variety. It’s just a small, hot chilli.

So is smaller hotter? Was I just unlucky with that tiny orange hab? Not really.

Looking a little further afield to my experience with scotch bonnets, I picked up a real freaky one one time at my local market. Three-lobed, perfect scotch bonnet shape, slightly gnarly, size of a small apple.

It tasted like a standard bonnet too, until I hit the peachy, oozing placenta in the centre. The flesh was hot but not like that. That tasted like the static from an old TV and, as the delayed heat kicked in, it started to feel like it as well. It built rapidly from a mild fuzz to a seriously intense heat that had me bight red, hiccuping and sweating like mad from just the tiniest of bites.

It wasn’t a superhot and it was too long ago for me to give an accurate number to but it was still one of the most painful fresh chillies I’ve ever attempted to eat. A good deal above any habanero.

So, if we can draw any conclusion at all from my anecdotal evidence, it’s that the size doesn’t matter. Sometimes bigger is hotter and sometimes smaller is. Smaller will generally rate hotter as scoville units are a measurement of heat per weight but ultimately, you simply can’t judge the overall heat of a chilli from how big it is.

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