Hot Pepper Race to the Bottom

In a world where everyone seems to be ceaselessly striving to outdo everyone else and be more, better, stronger, faster, etc., it’s refreshing to be entering a contest of less, meeker, weaker.  And what contest might that be?  Why, the heatless hot pepper contest.

If this pepper shape sends waves of PTSD through you owing to bad past habanero experience, fear not: it’s Numex Suave Orange, the almost heatless habanero!


I’ve eaten my share of hot peppers and professed to notice the flavor, but, really, after the initial moment, a bite into anything zingier than a jalapeno is usually more about pain tolerance and stress management than about a gastronomic experience.  Imagine, if you can, a pure experience of a chile’s flavor (they really do have complex and differing flavors!) without having to breathe deeply, mop one’s brow, spit constantly, be on the verge of puking, and mantra over and over “This too shall pass.”

Apparently I’m not alone in wanting those chiles to tone it down, and breeders appear to be rising to the challenge of a race to the bottom….designing the least-hot, hot pepper.  In the past I’ve grown and enjoyed Felicity F1, a heatless jalapeno that’s been on the market for a while, though at only 5000 Scoville units, there’s not so much taming that needs be done there (plus you can always just remove the seeds and most of the heat is gone).  More punishing but ever so tasty are the red and orange habaneros, whose 300,000 Scoville-unit ratings are a land where I dare not boldly go.

That all changed a few years ago when I started growing Numex Suave Orange, a very mildly hot habanero (  Now it seems there are completely heatless habaneros, like the aptly named Habanada. (  and other mild, Numex-like relatives, such as the lipstick-red Zavory Habanero (


Besides Numex, this year I’m adding Zavory Habanero and Habanada, both available through Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. Just seeded them all up today.


I don’t profess to have good self-limiting skills when it comes to deciding what to grow in my garden, so as usual, I’m not deciding between them but rather growing all three.  Not only will I enjoy the full flavor of these peppers without any coincident inner-writhing, but I will also take pleasure from amazing my unknowing visitors by repeatedly popping “habaneros” in my mouth and seeming impervious to their sting, though I suppose these thoughts betray that I still haven’t grasped the lesson of the heatless pepper….less is more.

If you have experience eating, growing, or (God bless you) breeding heatless hot peppers, I want to hear about it below!  And if you need a refresher on the Scoville scale or where your favorite chiles fall, check out:


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