The emergence of the chilli head culture has led to some interesting developments in the world of hot peppers. A chilli head is someone who loves their food as spicy as possible. This has bred (pun intended) a competitive pepper-breeding community. Every couple years, a new pepper is either discovered or being bred by a chilli aficionado.
Chilli peppers originated in South America - contrary to a lot of people’s belief. Many people believe they came from India. This isn’t an unrealistic belief - considering one of the world’s hottest peppers - the bhut jolokia - grows in India.
There is speculation as to why the hottest pepper grows here. Since peppers were discovered by caucasians a millennium and a half ago, they spread across the world. They were brought back from the southern continent to Europe, and were well-received.
A possible explanation as to why the hottest chilli peppers grow in India? Birds. Birds are largely responsible for the proliferation of hot chilli peppers. Their tongues are non-responsive to capsaicin - the chemical responsible for spicy feelings. This means they can gobble up a hot chilli and ‘deposit’ its seeds elsewhere.
Perhaps ghost chillies were simply the product of lucky seeds that were dropped off in an ideal climate for chilli peppers. Turns out, they don’t grow to be nearly as spicy in any other climate.
The Race Begins!
The bhut jolokia - aptly named the ghost pepper, perhaps because untrained tasters find themselves pale and ghost-faced after trying it - took the world by storm. People began brewing hot sauces of unprecedented spiciness. The ‘chilli head’ culture erupted, and people soon began trying to make peppers even hotter than the ghost pepper. There’s something special about a pepper eaten whole, as opposed to a hot sauce.
5. The Bedfordshire Super-naga 1,120,000 Scovilles
Named after the naga jolokia (yet another name for the ghost pepper) the Bedfordshire Super-naga was bred by a pepper aficionado in - you guessed it - Bedfordshire! It clocks in around 1,120,000 Scoville units and was the record holder in the U.K. for their spiciest commercially produced pepper in 2012.
4. The 7 Pot Barrackpore 1,300,000 Scovilles
This pepper was dormant in the Caribbean jungles and only brought into the public eye as of late. Once the race for the spiciest pepper began, this one was unleashed on the world. It, along with a number of other peppers, bears the term “7 pot” in its name - it’s said that a single pepper is enough to heat up seven pots of chilli. That’s saying something when coming from Caribbean folk, who love their food hot.
3. The 7 Pot Primo 1,450,000 Scovilles
This pepper was developed by a breeder in Louisiana by mixing the ghost pepper with spicier strains. It clocks in at just under a million and a half Scoville units.
2. The Trinidad Moruga Scorpion 2,000,000 Scovilles
This was considered the hottest pepper in the world after it’s discovery, and became quite popular right away. It was the first natural pepper (and, to this day, the only one) to register two million units on the Scoville scale. Ouch.
1. The Carolina Reaper - 2,200,000 Scovilles
The Carolina Reaper is currently the hottest pepper in the world. Ed Currie of South Carolina patented this pepper. He’s a very determined chilli head who owns a company known as PuckerButt Pepper Company. If that doesn’t say anything about his dedication, then nothing will.
Who knows how hot the next pepper will be? One might wonder how spicy a pepper can be before the capsaicin affects the structural integrity of the plants. Will people soon be breeding plants that simply ooze pure capsaicin oil? Who knows - all we know is that the Carolina Reaper won’t be the last pepper bred. Since hot food became a huge hit - almost as if someone’s ability to handle spice gives them a social status - people have been on the quest to breed hotter and hotter peppers.
I say, good luck!