Archive | Chili Peppers

Carolina Reaper


FORT MILL, S.C. (AP) — Ed Currie holds one of his world-record Carolina Reaper peppers by the stem, which looks like a scorpion’s tail.

On the other end is the bumpy, oily, fire-engine red fruit with a punch of heat nearly as potent as most pepper sprays used by police. It’s hot enough to leave even the most seasoned spicy food aficionado crimson-faced, flushed with sweat, trying not to lose his lunch.

Last month, The Guinness Book of World Records decided Currie’s peppers were the hottest on Earth, ending a more than four-year drive to prove no one grows a more scorching chili. The heat of Currie’s peppers was certified by students at Winthrop University who test food as part of their undergraduate classes.

But whether Currie’s peppers are truly the world’s hottest is a question that one scientist said can never be known. The heat of a pepper depends not just on the plant’s genetics, but also where it is grown, said Paul Bosland, director of the Chile Pepper Institute at New Mexico State University. And the heat of a pepper is more about being macho than seasoning.

“You have to think of chili heat like salt. A little bit improves the flavor, but a lot ruins it,” Bosland said.

Some ask Currie if the record should be given to the single hottest pepper tested instead of the mean taken over a whole batch. After all, Usain Bolt isn’t considered the world’s fastest man because of his average time over several races.

But Currie shakes off those questions.

In this Dec. 12, 2013 photo, Ed Currie holds Carolina Reaper peppers, in Fort Mill, S.C. Last month, …
“What’s the sense in calling something a record if it can’t be replicated? People want to be able to say they ate the world’s hottest pepper,” Currie said.

The record is for the hottest batch of Currie’s peppers that was tested, code name HP22B for “Higher Power, Pot No. 22, Plant B.” Currie said he has peppers from other pots and other plants that have comparable heat.

The science of hot peppers centers around chemical compounds called capsaicinoids. The higher concentration the hotter the pepper, said Cliff Calloway, the Winthrop University professor whose students tested Currie’s peppers.

The heat of a pepper is measured in Scoville Heat Units. Zero is bland, and a regular jalapeno pepper registers around 5,000 on the Scoville scale. Currie’s world record batch of Carolina Reapers comes in at 1,569,300 Scoville Heat Units, with an individual pepper measured at 2.2 million. Pepper spray weighs in at about 2 million Scoville Units.

Pharmacist Wilbur Scoville devised the scale 100 years ago, taking a solution of sugar and water to dilute an extract made from the pepper. A scientist would then taste the solution and dilute it again and against until the heat was no longer detected. So the rating depended on a scientist’s tongue, a technique that Calloway is glad is no longer necessary.

“I haven’t tried Ed’s peppers. I am afraid to,” Calloway said. “I bite into a jalapeno — that’s too hot for me.”

Now, scientists separate the capsaicinoids from the rest of the peppers and use liquid chromatography to detect the exact amount of the compounds. A formula then converts the readings into Scoville’s old scale.

In this Dec. 12, 2013 photo, Ed Currie holds Carolina Reaper peppers, in Fort Mill, S.C. Last month, …
The world record is nice, but it’s just part of Currie’s grand plan. He’s been interested in peppers all his life, the hotter the better. Ever since he got the taste of a sweet hot pepper from the Caribbean a decade ago, he has been determined to breed the hottest pepper he can. He is also determined to build his company, PuckerButt Pepper Company, into something that will let the 50-year-old entrepreneur retire before his young kids grow up.

The peppers started as a hobby, grown in his Rock Hill backyard. The business now spreads across a number of backyards and a couple dozen acres in Chester County. As his business grew, Currie kept his job at a bank because he promised his wife, whom he wooed a decade ago by making her a fresh batch of salsa, he wouldn’t leave the lucrative position until they were out of debt. She released him from that vow in February.

Currie has about a dozen employees. Even with the publicity of the world record, he still gets nervous about making payroll. He said the attention has helped him move closer to the goal of making PuckerButt self-sustaining.

Currie’s peppers aren’t just about heat. He aims for sweetness, too. He makes sauces and mustards with names like “Voodoo Prince Death Mamba,” ”Edible Lava” and “I Dare You Stupit” with a goal to enhance the flavor of food.

And the hot pepper market is expanding. In less than five years, the amount of hot peppers eaten by Americans has increased 8 percent, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics.

Currie’s world record has created quite a stir in the world of chiliheads, said Ted Barrus, a blogger from Astoria, Ore., who has developed a following among hot pepper fans by videotaping himself eating the hottest peppers in the world and posting the videos on YouTube under the name Ted The Fire Breathing Idiot.

Barrus said Currie’s world record is just the latest event in a series of pepper growers to top one another with hotter and hotter peppers.

This Dec. 12, 2013 photo shows Carolina Reaper peppers at Ed Currie’s store in Fort Mill, S.C. L …
“That’s the biggest bragging rights there are. It is very, very competitive,” he said.

The reason people love super-hot peppers isn’t much different than any other thrill seekers. Barrus talks lovingly about trying the Carolina Reaper, even though the peppers usually send him into spasms of hiccups and vomiting.

“You only live once. This is safer than jumping out of an airplane,” he said.

Barrus said Currie’s news has other growers sending him peppers that seem hotter than the Carolina Reaper on his tongue, although they will await scientific testing.

That’s fine with Currie. He knew the record would be challenged quickly and has sent off what he thinks are even hotter batches to the students at Winthrop University to test.

“Nobody is going to grow hotter peppers than Ed Currie,” he said.


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WTF is The Scoville Heat Test?

WTF is The Scoville Heat Test?

The Scoville scale is a measurement of hotness or piquancy of a chilli pepper. The heat from this vegetable comes from the capsaicin content found in the skin, flesh and seeds of the pepper. The scale itself is named after its creator, Wilbur Scoville. This method, the Scoville Organaleptic Test, was developed in 1912, as a way to rate the pungency of chilli peppers.

To rate the hotness of a chilli pepper, capsaicin oil is removed from a dried pepper and the alcohol extract is removed. The alcohol is then added to a solution of sugar and water until the “heat” is detectable by a panel of tasters. A pepper that contains no capsaicin at all, like a bell pepper, would register a 0 on the Scoville Scale.

While a habanero pepper would rate 200 000 or more. This measurement means that the extract must be diluted at least 200 000 times before the spice is neutralized. There are some doubts with this test however, because the measurement is based on the human observation.

There are many variables for measuring the spice of a pepper. This is mainly due to the fact that there are so many variances within each species. Seed lineage, climate and soil all play a part in the pungency of peppers.

The hottest peppers on the Scoville Scale are those that belong to the naga jolokia family, these are often referred to as ghost chillies. Ghost chillies rate over one million Scoville units.

Over the years, other tests and methods have been developed, but the Scoville Scale is still the most widely used and respected. It is the measurement by which all chillis and hot sauces are measured.


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Growing Chili Peppers: Tips In The Garden

Growing Chili Peppers: Tips In The Garden

Whether you’re familiar with gardening peppers or this is the first project you’ve ever attempted – growing chili peppers at home is easy, fun and very low maintenance compared to other plants and vegetables.  Some would even say that it is similar to growing tomatoes – which is quite common!

To begin germination, you will need about 4 mm of plain old soil/compost.  It is very important that during the early stages, your chili pepper plant is kept somewhere reasonably warm.  You’ll find that keeping your pot above the fridge, for example, will really speed up the sprouting process.

After 1-3 weeks you should start to see some seedlings poking through the surface, and once this happens your primary objective moving forward is to ensure the chili pepper seedlings get lots of light.  Sufficient light and heat is crucial when gardening chili peppers.  So you will have to move them into a green house or a south facing window.

Once the seedlings sprout their second or third set of leaves, it’s time to pot your chili peppers.  If you have some spare or used plastic drinking cups laying around, these work perfect!  Simply remove each seedling into it’s own cup – and be extra careful not to damage the seedling.

Like many other plants, once you’ve had them growing inside for a while and the last frost has passed, you can transfer them to your outside garden.  The flowering period is always pretty and as soon as that is finished you should start to see the plants bare fruits – chili peppers, of course!


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The 12 Hottest Chili Peppers EVER!

The 12 Hottest Chili Peppers EVER!

In case you haven’t noticed, “hot” is IN right now, and by that I mean hot and spicy food. If you don’t believe me, just turn on The Food Network and you’ll quickly notice the growing number of programs dedicated to the subject. As Andrew Zimmern and Anthony Bourdain both trek across the globe sampling the culinary offerings of specific cities and countries, the viewers are more frequently exposed to watching them ingest some of the spiciest offerings the specific locales can dish up. Turn on Man vs. Food and you’ll likely see Adam Richmond attempting to get his picture on the “Wall of Fame” by devouring an insanely hot food challenge in the allotted period of time. I personally couldn’t be happier with the rising popularity of fiery-foods because I’ve been a fan myself for the better part of three decades. However, before you attempt to add some sizzle to your next meal you’d be well advised to familiarize yourself with the heat and flavor characteristics of hot chili peppers – otherwise, it could spell for disaster in the kitchen.

First it’s important to understand what causes chilies to pack a punch. Capsaicin is a chemical compound found in chili peppers. While the fruit of the pepper itself can be extremely hot, capsaicin is typically most concentrated in the membranes and seeds of the pepper. In the early 1900′s, chemist Wilbur Scoville created the Scoville Heat Unit scale which measures the amount of capsaicin present in a hot pepper. A pepper with a S.H.U level of 30,000 would require a dilution rate of 30,000 parts water to 1 part capsaicin in order for there to be no detectable presence of heat. The hottest pepper currently on record has a heat index of 1,041,427 S.H.U. That being said, it becomes readily apparent that it’s easy to go overboard on the amount, or type, of peppers used in a meal.

New hybrids and cultivars of peppers are continually being introduced which makes it nearly impossible to quantify just how many different varieties of hot peppers exist. To simplify things, I’ve created a list of the top twelve most common peppers which I humorously like to refer to as “The Dirty Dozen”. At the top of the list the Naga Bhut Jolokia reigns supreme with over one million Scoville Units. The Naga Jolokia is often referred to by several different names of which Ghost Pepper is one. Needless to say, if you’re not careful with this pepper you’ll either end up seeing ghosts – or becoming one yourself.

Next on the list is the Red Savina which interestingly held the World Record for heat until it was dethroned by the Naga Bhut Jolokia in 2007. The highest heat score for the Red Savina was recorded at 580,000 S.H.U. Even with the increased amount of attention spicy food is now enjoying, neither the Jolokia or Red Savina are household names, but the the next chili on the list certainly has become one.

In my opinion, the Habanero has single-handedly lead the way for the worlds newfound fascination with fiery-food. The habanero is a deliciously hot pepper that even corporate giants like Doritos, Nally’s and many others have embraced with open arms. During the mid to late 1990′s, the habanero slowly but surely became the posterchild for hot and spicy, whereas prior to that the jalapeano held the title. My how times have changed! The jalapeano isn’t even on my list of the top 12 peppers, although if I were to make it a “Baker’s Dozen” it would make the grade.

Another interesting attribute of hot chilies is that some of them have actually come to define the culinary taste of specific regions around the world. There is no better example of this than with the Scotch Bonnet and it’s association with Caribbean cuisine. The Scotch Bonnet is my favorite due primarily to the fact that it has an absolutely delicious, unmistakeable flavor and it’s neither too hot or too mild (at least not for my taste). The Scotch Bonnet is the primary pepper featured in Jerk cooking most often associated to the island of Jamaica but prevelent elsewhere in the Caribbean too. On your travels to the islands you’d be hard-pressed to find a bottle of hot sauce that doesn’t capture the tasty nectar of this pepper.

While the Scotch Bonnet hails from the West Indies, the next chili in the Dirty Dozen is the Fatalii, originating from Africa. The Fatalli is just slightly less potent than the Habanero and Scotch Bonnet, with a S.H.U. range of 125,000 to 325,000. Frankly, the Fatalii chili is the least common on my list of the top twelve, in fact I’ve yet to find it available in any marketplace. This, however, may simply be the result of the area of the country in which I live.

To save time and to round out the list of the hottest peppers, I am listing them here in descending order: Chiltepin, Thai (Bird’s Eye), Aji’, Cayenne, Tabasco, Chile de Arbol, and Serrano.

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