The Heatless Habanero, the Habanada, Packs Flavor Without the Punch

Habanero is undeniably a well-known flavor. Most of us associate this flavor with heat and, when you think about it, we do this with good reason. Habanero peppers are generally pretty darn hot. Thanks to genetic modification and food science, a heatless habanero called the habanada has arrived.

Tove Danovich of NPR wrote about these peppers in connection to one Dan Barber. Barber is the chef behind New York City-based restaurant Blue Hill. Danovich describes how Barber serves the habanada, saying "Diners are served their heatless habaneros lightly flavored with salt and pepper. They take a bite, then wait for the feeling of a burning mouth or watering eyes that never comes."

Expectations aside, these peppers have been received quite well by diners. The habanada is distributed by Bronx-based Baldor Foods. Baldor specializes in, well, specialty food items.

The grower of this increasingly popular heatless pepper is Ark Foods, and they're currently the only commerical-scale producer. If you want to try one for yourself, you'll have to find them in a restaurant or grow one from a seed.

"'When [our diners] question things they know to be absolute -- habanero equals intense heat -- it gets them to think about eating in a different way,' says Barber. 'It's very important to jujitsu expectations. You end up being more conscious of what you're eating.'"

So where did this interesting food come from? "The man behind the Habanada is a Cornell University plant breeder named Michael Mazourek, who created it as part of his doctoral research," writes Tove Danovich.

"He got the idea after discovering a rogue heatless pepper whose genetics behaved very differently from a naturally sweet pepper like the Bell. This pepper had somehow lost whatever made it spicy in the first place."

Heat-free, aromatic peppers are challenging common conceptions on what a pepper should be.

We all know that peppers can be hot, but the habanada encourages us to view what is, according to Dan Barber, the more melon-like qualities of a pepper.

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