Saturday, April 14, 2012

 Hottest Peppers

Hottest Peppers
Pepper lovers are a unique breed of people that the vast majority of those on the outside have trouble understanding. There is something about the spice of a pepper; something about the burning sensation and the way it makes the body feel that drives people to eat them. More so, it drives some people to really push the limits of what peppers they can comsume as well as those growing them to create new and even more intense breeds of these vegetables. The Guinness Book of World Records even has a section rating which are the world's hottest peppers. Before jumping into the challenge of trying to consume these beasts of fiery fury, it is best to know a little bit about them.
The hotness of a pepper is measured not by the shade of red that a persons face turns when eating it, but by a system known as the Scoville scale. Developed in 1912 by Wilbur Scoville (hence the name) this scale rates peppers in terms of Scoville heat units (SHUs), which represent the amount of capsaicin (the chemical compound that makes something spicy) that a given pepper contains. Examples of commonly known peppers on the Scoville scale might be a mild Peperoncini rating in at 100-900 SHUs to a spicy habanero falling in the 100,000 to 350,000 SHU range.
There is a great deal of variation among peppers, even those coming off of the same plant. SHUs can rate drastically different depending on such things as climate, soil conditions, the lineage of the seeds used and just plain natural variation from pepper to pepper. Some pepper plants thrive in more humid conditions while others do better in a dry heat. Certain factors in fertilizer, such as high levels of nitrogen, will cause a plant to become healthier and larger but only at the expense of capsaicin levels. Therefore, even though one pepper may have been ranked as the hottest pepper in the world, it does not mean that the next pepper of the same type will be just as spicy.

The title of Worlds Hottest Pepper has passed from pepper to pepper and the SHUs are rising with each year. More people are creating hybrid peppers which top the naturally grown peppers or other hybrids that held the title previously. This list of spicy champions therefore begins with the earlier champions and proceeds to the present.

Red Savina Habanero (1994 - 2006)

Also known as the Dominican Devils Tongue Pepper, these little red bites of spice ranked in at 700,000 SHUs and held the Guinness World Record for more than ten years. They originated in California at the hands of Frank Garcia, owner of GNS Spices, when he selectively bred various habaneros to get the hottest that he could find. Those who have little problem eating a normal habanero might find these to be a bit more of a challenge.

Bhut Jolokia Chili Pepper (2007 - 2010)

This pepper is known by a great many other names, including Naga Jolokia and Ghost chili. It is a hybrid pepper cultivated in the Assam region of northeastern India. A typical Bhut Jolokia is around three inches long, one inch wide, and ranges in color from bright red, to yellow, orange and chocolate. In 2007 one of these fiery vegetables stole the title by ranking in at just over 1 million SHUs.

The Bhut Jolokia is so potent that people living in northeastern India smear its juices on the fences around their houses in order to deter wild elephants from causing problems. It is currently being developed into a pepper spray for personal defense as well as tactical military use. Eventually, even this marvel of chili fire-power was forced to admit defeat, however. In December of 2010, the Naga Viper would become the next world champion.

Naga Viper Pepper (Dec. 2010 - Feb. 2011; Feb. 25th, 2011 March 1st, 2011)

The glory of the Naga Viper was short-lived. It managed to remain the worlds hottest pepper for about two months before losing the title, only to regain it again two weeks later and then surrender it in less than a week. Its SHUs measured at just over 1.36 million the second time around.

The Naga Viper is a hybrid pepper, created in Cark, England at the hands of a farmer by the name of Gerald Fowler. It is a three-way hybrid composed of the Naga Jolokia, the Naga Morich and a Trinidad hybrid. Unfortunately, the plant fails to produce reliable offspring and makes the Naga Viper difficult to cultivate. Still, this bright red fireball is so hot that when Fowler decided to try it in its first recipe, he had to make those who wanted a taste of the meal sign a waiver, just in case it turned out to be more than they could handle.

Infinity Chilli
(Feb 2011)

While the Infinity Chilli did make it into the Guinness Book of World Records, it only did so for two weeks in the month of February, 2011, before it was beaten out again by the very same competitor it had defeated. The Infinity Chilli in question was grown in Grantham, England, and ranked at over a million on the Scoville scale. These peppers range in color from red to yellow to green.

Trinidad Scorpion Butch T (March 2011 current)

The reigning champion of all spicy peppers is now the mouth-burning menace known by the name of Trinidad Scorpion Butch T. It is a specific strain of Trinidad Scorpion (so named because the end of the pepper resembles a scorpions stinger) developed by Butch Taylor, the owner of a hot sauce company. Grown in Australia, the world record was set by this pepper at almost 1.5 million SHUs.

The Trinidad Scorpion Butch T ranges in color from red to yellow to orange and is so volatile that to even handle it, protective gloves are needed. Exposure of the peppers juice to the eyes can cause temporary blindness. When these peppers are prepared, a mask or body suit needs to be worn in order to protect against the highly potent fumes that are given off while it is cooking. This is not a pepper recommended to eat straight for even the hardiest of chili pepper aficionados.

There are many other peppers which, while not the hottest peppers out there, are still pretty intimidating to the average person (or even the average pepper lover). The habanero, the Scotch bonnet and the Datil pepper are just a few famous names. While not everyone may be ready to take on the challenge of putting one of the more potent peppers into their mouth, there are plenty of less-intense options for those who wish to explore the diversity of these healthy and deliciously spicy vegetables.

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