Many people set out to propagate, germinate, manipulate and otherwise muck about with chillies and a trowel, in charred-throated attempts to grow the world’s hottest pepper. And who can blame them. Being the guy who raised the title-holder usually gives the grower pots of money, supercharges his reputation to that of some sort of horticultural pirate-god, and when’s all said and done, there are far worse things a human can do to the long-suffering Earth than grow chillies on it.
So hats off to them, the iron-stomached freaks. Including ‘Smokin’ Ed’ (the grower) and ‘Pepper Joe’ (the PR guy). These glory hunters run the PuckerButt Pepper Company, chilli growers and sellers of chilli products and seeds. In August 2012, the likely duo announced to the chilli-appreciation world that they had created a world record breaker to knock the mighty Trinidad Scorpion Butch T off pole position: the Carolina Reaper. They did it with bells and whistles, working to get the name out there. They orchestrated Carolina Reaper press releases left, right and centre; Carolina Reaper seed sales timed to coincide with the record claim, with exclusive Carolina Reaper seed sales rights; Carolina Reaper interviews; Carolina Reaper radio talk-slots; Carolina Reaper magazine features; publicised Carolina Reaper taste testing; and internet news releases – “Carolina Reaper: World Record Holder”.
However, what Ed and Joe also did was make rather a mess of their slick marketing machine. Since the Carolina Reaper (named in a contest, replacing its previous moniker of HP22B – you can see why they wanted to change it) was publicly announced as the planet’s most potent pepper, everything from testing methods to the Carolina Reaper’s origins were held suspect by various agencies. The revelation of the Carolina Reaper’s mind-bending capsaicin levels hit the chilli world at around the same time that the formidable Trinidad Moruga Scorpion pepper staked a claim to the throne. The Carolina Reaper’s heat was tested by Doctor Calloway and his team at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, South Carolina. The Trinidad Moruga Scorpion’s sting was measured by New Mexico State University's Chile Pepper Institute. The Chile Institute happens to be the only non-profit international scientific organization on Earth devoted to education and research related to chilli peppers, and what they don’t know about chillies isn’t worth knowing. I’m sure Doctor Calloway is a ferociously honest man who doesn’t even reuse postage stamps, but I know who I’d side with as a more credible source.
But, nauseating sales-pitch and dubious testing or not, the Carolina Reaper is still evidently one of the world’s hottest chillies. Scores of loonies with decommissioned tongues on youtube will attest to that. The claimed ferocity of the Carolina Reaper is to the tune of 1,474,000 Scoville Heat Units. To put that into perspective, the Jalapeńo – plenty fiery enough for most people - measures 3,000 to 7,000 SHU’s.
The Carolina Reaper is seriously hot, for seasoned fire-breathers only. To those familiar with chillies, you can tell just by looking at the Carolina Reaper that it’s one of the hottest peppers there is. The vicious-looking curved skinny Scorpion tale hinting at Trinidadian heritage; the compact, stocky blazing red body; the hundreds of undulations on the skin of each Carolina Reaper pod – a characteristic of only the capsaicin heavyweights.
And as well as being hot enough to disable a camel, the Carolina Reaper tastes awesome. The reviews from tasters and testers: fruity and sweet flavour, chocolate and cherry undertones, citrus, cinnamon, smoky aftertaste. Of course, you only need the most modest morsel of Carolina Reaper to add deep flavour and explosive spice to food. It’s super-economical, as just a tiny touch will light up a salsa, stew, chili, salad, sandwich, soup, pizza. Hmmm, chilli pizza… (note to self: don’t write chilli guides when hungry, it’s mildly torturous). Just a quarter of a Carolina Reaper pod will heat a pot of chili or Bolognese.
These super-hot gastronomical beasts have another trick up their stalks. Carolina Reapers and other chilli peppers are phenomenally good for us. And the more capsaicin, the better. Chillies 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.
Incidentally, Carolina Reaper creator ‘Smokin’ Ed’s real name is Ed Currie. Ed Currie – it sounds like his parents thought his skull was filled with Indian spice. If you ask me, with such a fantastically, outstandingly apt name for a curator of hot foods, he shouldn’t have changed it.
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