Bhut Jolokia Pepper
If you’ve not heard of the Bhut Jolokia, I imagine you fit into one or more of the following accusations. Sorry – categories. Categories.
A) You are an Inuit.
B) You are something that sounds like “an Inuit”, but is not connected to geography.
C) You have arrived at a website called “The World’s Hottest Garlic Pepper” because you would like to buy cleaning products - in which case, see category B.
Let me lay it down. The Jalepeño is Woody Allen. The Habanero is Bruce Willis. The Bhut Jolokia is Michael Corleone after surgery to replace his bones with Adamantium while forcefully detained by the government to be built into an experimental military prototype.
When a chilli’s heat-producing capsaicin levels are measured by the Defence Research Laboratory, you know you’re dealing with something a bit special. India's DRL got wind of the Bhut Jolokia’s potency and had its interest piqued. They ran tests with a view to weaponising it. In 2000, Bhut Jolokia strains of the day registered at 855,000 Scoville Heat Units. It was the hottest pepper known to man. In 2004, selective breeding gave Bhut Jolokia samples an average fury of 1,041,427 SHU’s, tested using High Pressure Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) analysis. It was the hottest pepper known to man, plus a spoon of Thermite. National papers and the BBC ran article titles on the Bhut Jolokia like “Curry Bomb!” and “Army’s New Weapon: World’s Hottest Chilli Pepper”. The esteemed Chile Pepper Institute at New Mexico University confirmed the Bhut Jolokia’s position as the world’s hottest chilli pepper at the time. By 2007 it was immovable from The Guinness Book of World Records. The Bhut Jolokia was in business.
The internet is full of companies’ pseudo-warnings about the cute chilli products they sell: “Death Sauce”; “Insanity Sauce”; “Mad Dog Inferno”; “Possible Side Effects” sauce. A little research and a lot of love for chillies reveals that these products are respectively 180,000, 550,000, 150,000, and 283,000 Scoville Heat Units. Bear that in mind when considering our above 1 million SHU Bhut Jolokias. These are truly for hardened chilli aficionados only.
Phew. Right. Let’s peel ourselves away from the Bhut Jolokia’s ridiculous humbling numbers of unfathomable spice and talk about how this bad boy tastes. Oh no wait – we can’t! Who cares if the Bhut Jolokia’s a bit fruity, if your tongue feels on the verge of spontaneous combustion! It’s 400 times hotter than Tabasco sauce for goodness’ sake.
Let’s face it, you’re not looking to eat one of the hottest things on the planet because it tastes nice. You’re wanting Bhut Jolokia because you have a strange desire to put your mouth on a skillet and your mind knocked off its orbit. Bhut the Brute is your man for the job.
The only two peppers on Earth hotter than the Bhut Jolokia are the Dorset Naga (a selectively bred wicked prodigal son of the Bhut Jolokia, hitting 1.6 million Scovilles) and the world record holder since 2011, the terrifying Trinidad Moruga Scorpion, topping out at just over a plain dangerous 2 million Scovilles. And we have both, you lucky fire-heads!
Scoville heat ratings of course vary between individual peppers, even of the same variety. In March 2012 some Bhut Jolokias tested hotter than the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion, keeping the two breeds in the running for the world record. So depending on the Bhut Jolokia batch in your bottle, you could well be eating what is still the planet’s most potent pepper.
It’s not only spice-level which is amazingly powerful in the Bhut Jolokia. The more capsaicin, the more potent the health benefits too. Bhut Jolokias and other chilli peppers stimulate the metabolism. They fight cancer. They help diabetics. They are vitamin-rich and contain immune-boosting antioxidants. They reduce cholesterol… click on the “Benefits of Peppers” header of our website for the comprehensive rundown of the amazing and reassuring things they can do for us mere mortals.
The tale of this awesome plant deserves the telling. The not-so-humble Bhut Jolokia was born in Assam, India, the aggressive and misbehaving offspring of other native chillies. DNA tests show the Bhut Jolokia to be the demon child of both Capsicum chinense and Capsicum frutescens genes fused to produce something altogether new: an inter-species hybrid far more potent than the sum of its parts.
Now cultivated in Bangladesh and the Indian states of Nagaland, Assam and Manipur, many growers want to be associated with the now world-famous Bhut Jolokia. Regions have their own names for the beast. North of Assam’s Brahmaputra river, it’s the Bhoot or Bhut Jolokia, meaning 'Ghost Chilli' in Assamese, Bengali, Hindi and Gujarati. South of the river, it’s the Naga Jolokia, likely named after the ferocious Naga warriors of the Nagaland plains and hills. This was later Anglicized to Naga King Chilli. To others it’s the Saga Jolokia, Bih Jolokia, Indian Mystery Chilli, Indian Rough Chilli (officially referring to its wrinkled skin, but I have my suspicions of its allusion to next-day rectal sensations), Tezpur Chilli (after the Assamese city of Tezpur), Umorok or Oomorok (‘tree chilli’), Red Naga, Naga Bhut Jolokia and Naga Morich. It was under the auspicious name of Naga Morich that it came to Michael Michaud, the English horticulturist who supercharged it into the atrociously savage new sub-species, the Dorset Naga.
On the Bhut Jolokia’s strength being sufficient for the pepper to be weaponised, I must share a satisfyingly perceptive morsel from Steven Bates of the mighty Guardian newspaper:
“Older readers who can recall The Goon Show's Major Dennis Bloodnok's frequent strangulated cry of: ‘It was hell, I tell you. No more curried eggs for me!’ may wonder why it has taken them so long, for the vegetable is said to be powerful enough to deter a charging elephant.”
So, the Bhut Jolokia is in hand-grenades, it’s in anti-assault sprays, and in north-eastern India Bhut Jolokias are smeared on fences to keep wild elephants at a distance. Oh yes – and you can eat them.
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