October 27, 2007

Hottest Pepper in the World

If you like spicy food, have I got a pepper for you! It's called Bhut Jolokia or Naga Jolokia (Capsicum chinense Jacq. cultivar) and is a native of India. The common name means "ghost pepper," giving some indication of it's supernatural-like ability to set your mouth on fire or perhaps convince you that your oral cavity has descended into hell.

How is the hotness of peppers determined? They're rated in Scoville heat units (SHUs) on the Scoville heat scale. Their content of mouth-burning chemicals are measured using high pressure liquid chromatography which, technically speaking, doesn't yield a measurement in SHUs but the conversion is so simple that it doesn't really matter. What does matter is that a very precise measurement based on chemistry is yielded. Bhut jolokia measures about 1,000,000 SHUs on the Scoville scale.

How hot is that? The previous record-holder was the red savina pepper, measured at 577,000 SHUs. Red savina is the same species as the ghost pepper but a different cultivar. Still, all this talk about SHUs probably doesn't say much about how hot this monster-pepper really is, so here's a table I've lifted from Wikipedia that might put things into perspective:

So, if you can't get some Bhut jolokia to try for yourself, here's a way to simulate the experience that you can try at home. Take a can of pepper spray and, while wearing proper protection, spray it into a plastic cup until you have an appreciable amount accumulated. Next, mix together sugar and water. Combine the pepper spray and sugar water in equal volumes and consume. Mmmmmmmm. Can you say, "Somebody help me!" No? You will.

You can read more about this killer pepper from hell here. The original article is, alas, behind a pay wall. There is a quite nice website available that tells the story of how this pepper got its recognition and how hot it really is. Also, here's a handy description of what it's like to eat one of these peppers:
Around here, in the hills of northeastern India, it’s called the “bhut jolokia” — the “ghost chile.” Anyone who has tried it, they say, could end up an apparition.

“It is so hot you can’t even imagine,” said the farmer, Digonta Saikia, working in his fields in the midday sun, his face nearly invisible behind an enormous straw hat. “When you eat it, it’s like dying.”

Outsiders, he insisted, shouldn’t even try it. “If you eat one,” he told a visitor, “you will not be able to leave this place.”


Still want to try some? You can order products made with the stuff from this site. Just don't come crying to me when you have third degree burns on your brainstem!

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