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The Hottest Pepper in the World

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Authored by Nickie Fleming in Food and Cooking
Published on 05-18-2009

If you are looking for the world’s hottest pepper, you actually have a few varieties to choose from.

According to the Guniness Book of Records, the world’s hottest pepper is rated with 1,001,304 Scoville heat units and is thus the hottest pepper around.

I hear you ask: “What are Scoville units?”

Well, Scoville units are a measurement scale for the heat of peppers. This was named after a certain Wilbur L. Scoville who was the first to try and measure the heat of a pepper in 1912. Mr Scoville was a pharmacologist who worked for the Parke-Davis Company. He originally tested several peppers with a panel of tasters, who would taste a solution of chile extract mixed with slightly sweetened water for detectable heat. They also tried to determine how much the chile extract needed to be diluted before it no longer had any detectable heat sensation. When we say that the hottest pepper in the world has 1,001,304 Scoville units, it means that over a million parts of water are required to dilute this extract!!!

What is this very hot pepper called? The Guinness Book of Records names it Bhut Jolokia. It is a variety of pepper that originates from Assam in India. It was discovered by Dr. Paul Bosland, Director of the Chile Pepper Institute at New Mexico State Unviersity during a trip to India. He collected some seeds of the pepper in 2001, and then began to grow it in the USA under insect-proof cages. Yet it took him three years to produce enough seed to complete the field tests required. Bhut Jolokia (which means ‘ghost chile’) has a significant impact on the food industry as an economical seasoning in packaged food.

While the Guinness Book claims that Bhut Jolokia is the hottest pepper around, some claim that in fact Wild Desert Tepin Pepper (pronounced tay-peen) is the hottest spice. Tepin is a tiny round fruit which can only be harvested from wild plants that grow in the desert mountain areas of Northern Mexico. The plants need around 120 days for green fruit and even 200 days to mature red fruit. The plants will grow better when they are protected from the cold, and that is why some farmers now grow them in containers. With Tepin Pepper, you can make the world’s hottest natural hot sauce, but be advised to mix it with lime juice to taste well enough.

Other very hot peppers are the Habanero and the Scotch Bonnet Pepper. Habaneros are green in color and ripen in a variety of colors (red, orange, salmon, white, chocolate) ‘Habanero’ means ‘coming from Havana’ and it is believed that the seeds originally came from Cuba and were taken into Mexico.

The Scotch Bonnet comes from the same species as the Habanero, but has a different shape (it actually resembles a bonnet!) and it grows mainly in the Caribbean area. The flavor of it is very much like that of the Habanero, and their heat level is equal as well.

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