A warm early fall, plant cages and a drip irrigation system all contributed to a bumper crop of sweet and hot peppers this season. One of the most interesting varieties we grew was the Nu Mex Suave Orange. In appearance, this pepper closely resembles a habenaro. If you are not familiar with habenaros, they are one of the hottest varieties grown. Pepper heat is rated on the Scoville scale. For example, jalapenos are around 25,000 units, hot enough to satisfy most palates. The red Savina habenaro is 577,000 Scoville units, a bit too hot for all but the most dedicated pepperheads to enjoy.
So why was there a need to breed a mild habenaro? In addition to their heat, habenaros have a unique flavor that most people couldn’t taste because they couldn’t get past the scorching heat.
This is where the developers of new pepper breeds came in. With seed donated from a chile aficionado from Texas, and many seeding trials, the varieties, Nu Mex Suave Red and Orange pepper were originated. Nu Mex is the name for products created at the agricultural experimentation station at New Mexico State University at Las Cruces and suave, meaning mellow or smooth, emphasizes the mild nature of the chile. Nu Mex Suaves look like a cross between a habenaro and a Scotch bonnet, another hot chili, used in Jamaican jerk sauces and salsa.
The fruits are about 2 inches in size, plump, wrinkled and bright orange yellow in color. Suaves have a citrusy flavor with an orange lemony overtone. The heat is felt in the back of the mouth and throat as opposed to a jalapeno where you will experience the heat on your tongue and lips.
Their wrinkled appearance and thin waxy skin make them a poor candidate for roasting. I used them in salads and had my own experiment with some mini stuffed peppers. I also froze several bags and look forward to the mild heat and citrusy flavor they will add to soups, stews and other dishes.