The hottest chili pepper in the world

PepperIt shouldn’t surprise you that the hottest chili pepper in the world, as verified by scientists and recognized by the Guinness World Records, is from India. It’s grown in the northeast state of Assam. Tim Sullivan of the Associated Press recently traveled there to write about the pepper, known as the "bhut jolokia" or "ghost chili."
If you think you’ve had a hotter chili pepper, you’re wrong. The smallest morsels can flavor a sauce so intensely it’s barely edible. Eating a raw sliver causes watering eyes and a runny nose. An entire chile is an all-out assault on the senses, akin to swigging a cocktail of battery acid and glass shards.

For generations, though, it’s been loved in India’s northeast, eaten as a spice, a cure for stomach troubles and, seemingly paradoxically, a way to fight the crippling summer heat. [Link]
It could also be used to fight enemies. Forget about nuclear weapons. India should be loading its missiles with bhut jolokia.

A chili’s spiciness can be scientifically measured by calculating its content of capsaicin, the chemical that gives a pepper its bite, and counting its Scoville units.

And how hot is the bhut jolokia?

As a way of comparison: Classic Tabasco sauce ranges from 2,500 to 5,000 Scoville units. Your basic jalapeño pepper measures anywhere from 2,500 to 8,000. The previous record holder, the Red Savina habanero, was tested at up to 580,000 Scovilles.

The bhut jolokia crushed those contenders, testing at 1,001,304 Scoville units. [Link]

India should market itself as a country of hotness: hot peppers, hot weather, hot women …

Journalists often risk their lives to report the news, going to war-ravaged countries like Iraq and Afghanistan, confronting tyrants and terrorists. But few are as committed to their profession as Tim Sullivan, who did something no other journalist has done: he ate an entire bhut jolokia.

My eyes watered uncontrollably and my nose ran. I felt like I was gargling with acid. My hands quivered. As the minutes passed, the pain grew worse.

I shoveled in yogurt: No relief. I chewed bread: Nothing. My head felt like it was expanding. My ears felt as if hot liquid was draining from them. Picture one of those old Tom and Jerry cartoons, with steam blasting from Tom’s ears as a train whistle blows. That was me.The experts say beer and water do no good at such times. Maybe that’s true, but gulps of very cold beer were the only things that helped me, washing away the pain for a few blessed seconds.[Link]

Give the man a medal of honor. Better yet, give him another beer.
If you enjoyed this piece, you'll love Melvin's novel Bala Takes the Plunge, available in North America through Amazon.com and McNallyRobinson.com You can also find it at major bookstores in India and Sri Lanka or online at FlipKart, IndiaPlaza, FriendsofBooks or other sites. A number of readers have written reviews of the novel. An excerpt of the novel can be read here.

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