You’re looking at the pepper that started the blaze. Just twelve years ago the jalapeno and habanero were the only chilies that scorched the market. It wasn’t until the Ghost Pepper was recognised internationally as the hottest chilli on record in 2006, that mayhem broke out and the world went crazy trying to break its record. Yet for a good four years the Ghost Pepper was the top of the pack.
|Scoville scale (SHUs)||855,000 to 1,041,000|
|Claim to Fame||
What exactly is the heat record?
The Bhut Jolokia was the first pepper to hit more than 1 million Scoville Heat Units. To be specific it sits between 855,000 to 1,041,000 SHU. That makes it more than 400 times hotter than a jalapeño and ten times hotter than a habanero. The Red Savina Habanero was the previous record holder, sitting at a measly 577,000 SHU in comparison to the Bhut Jolokia. Today the hottest chili on record reaches 2.2 million SHU, the scorching Carolina Reaper, which in fact is a combination of the Bhut Jolokia and the Red Savina Habanero. So if it wasn’t for our hero the Bhut Jolokia, the world wouldn’t truly understand the meaning of heat.
So what is the Bhut Jolokia?
This spicy hot pepper comes from Assam in the northeastern region of India. It is an interspecific hybrid of the Capsicum chinense and capsicum frutescens, grown specifically for its heat. After its discovery by America, back in 2001, it was brought to the United States for testing and five years later was finally confirmed as the world’s hottest chilli pepper.
It’s a slow growing plant, taking 100 days to mature. It starts at a leafy green and matures to a bright red. It’s thin, wrinkled skin, often dented, gives it a very old and worn look, but don’t let this deceive you. The capsaicinoids sitting behind the membrane of the skin have a youthful kick that you won’t forget quickly. Today you can find a few strains with a nice smooth complexion.
What does it taste like?
It is quite a sweet chilli on the hot pepper market. The burn takes half a minute to come, which means in the short run you’ll appreciate the flavour. Yet this will be a short-lived joy, so when the 30 second mark hits, you’ll be scrambling for the milk.
What’s with the name?
The name itself is assamese, translating to Ghost Pepper. There’s a few creative reasons as to why it refers to a ghost. Whether it’s because the heat will sneak up on you or you will become a ghost yourself upon consumption but either way, it’s one you shouldn’t let fade from your memory.
It’s as powerful as a grenade - Don’t underestimate its abilities.
As well as exploding in your stomachs, it’s done plenty of damage in the real world as well. A news article of 2015, shows they were used in chilli grenades to safely immobilise terrorists and other criminal suspects. It was so successful, a terrorist renounced weeping to the Indian troops.
If this doesn’t scare you, according to Live Science, eating 1.5kgs of powdered Bhut Jolokia all at once could kill a 70kg individual. So take our warnings!
However, on the other side of the spectrum, it has been used for healing. In the northeast of India it was used as a cure for stomach troubles and a way to fight the unbearably hot summer by inducing sweat and cooling the body.
Apart from power, heat and burn, these little explosives are full of antioxidant vitamin A and C. Both these vitamins are responsible for neutralising free radicals in our bodies -the nasties that like to cause cancer. On top of this, capsaicin is always a good nutrient to turn to for anti-inflammation, and sinus infections.