The Trinidad Morunga Scorpion pepper is not so much a chili as an ascetic phenomenon.
In 2012 the New Mexico State University’s Chili Pepper Institute recorded its Scoville Heat Units (the international standard for nerve-stimulating capsaicin content) as above 2 million in some specimens (1,207,764 average rating for those of you with desire for detail). That’s around 600 times that of the Jalapeño, and similar to 25ml of police-grade pepper spray, making the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion pepper both a record-holder and a daunting prospect.
In a world of investment in war and destructive technologies, we can find solace in the knowledge that a respected university has its own dedicated and well-staffed Chili Pepper Institute. I take my hat off to this glorious bastion of gastronomic research. Its sweating alchemists used multiple glove-layers as the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion pepper’s capsaicin “kept penetrating the latex and soaking into the skin… that has never happened to me before,” said one of the research specialists.
Gathering respectable data to prove the discovery of the world’s hottest chili was not taken lightly. Doctor Herman Adam of the Caribbean Agriculture Research and Development Institute contributed both knowledge and seeds to the project. The Chili Pepper Institute extracted capsaicin from random samples of the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion pepper, their diligently measured levels then verified by two independent laboratories.
The knobbly golfball-sized Trinidad Moruga Scorpion pepper is endemic to Trinidad and Tobago’s Moruga district, is rust orange to strawberry red, and is known to a daring few for its exciting fruity taste. But if eaten whole, the taste is enjoyed only behind a wave of unrelenting agony. Paul Bosland, New Mexico University’s professor of horticulture, explains that typical human reactions to eating an entire Trinidad Moruga Scorpion pepper will include blistering of the mouth and throat, as the body “sacrifices the top layer of cells to save the rest.” The burn is ferociously painful, growing more so over 20 minutes, before finally waning. Common reactions also include vomiting, tongue numbness which can last several days, shaking, and screaming “My kingdom for a gallon of milk.”
Should you need to take ten minutes out from your ever-so-important job – purely for research purposes – to laugh at macho halfwits voluntarily inflicting awful penance on themselves, there is a host videos out there on the internet of people eating entire Trinidad Moruga Scorpion peppers. These upstanding young gentlemen, calling themselves things like FireHead Thomas and Ted the Fire-Breathing Idiot, can be seen in floods of fiery tears, florid-faced and clearly yearning to undo the last few minutes and return to the safety of the womb.
Now, although eating a whole Trinidad Moruga Scorpion pepper is not recommended, and watching chili aficionados with something to prove lose control of numerous biological functions is all very entertaining, it’s a different story when used in small amounts. And cheap too, due to the concentration of flavour. Used sensibly, the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion pepper is well known for its deep and complex delicious fruity flavour, while supplying its satisfyingly profound kick. The Scorpion goes a long way – one little pepper can be used in every meal for a week. In fact, it’s entirely possible that a newcomer to the taste of these potent beasties may find himself putting a little of one in more and more of his food, as chili’s famously addictive rush is present in a significantly higher amount in the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion pepper.
Endorphins are released by the ever-thoughtful body (huge amounts if a whole pepper is eaten in an attempt to counteract the pain), causing an addictive “crack-like rush”, according to Jim Duffy, a San Diego grower. An interview with Jim – a man as passionate about chilies as we are – can be read here: http://www.scottrobertsweb.com/The-Facts-Behind-the-Moruga-Scorpion-and-the-Chile-Pepper-Institute-Super-Hot-Study-A-Talk-With-Jim-Duffy. Jim is one of many avid fans of the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion pepper and is the founder of Refining Fire Chiles.
Which reminds me, I see two possible reasons for the differing accepted international spellings – chili, chilli, chile. Either it is the result of natural shifts in linguistic cultural nuance that occurred as the love for this wonderful fiery food-group expanded outwards from their original native growing areas, or it came about because those responsible for popularising the spellings had themselves consumed vast quantities. Affected by the feeling of wellbeing from mildly psychotropic chillies (made famous in Nando’s marketing), they subsequently cared only to lounge in hammocks and enjoy life, with no concern for spelling. Or wasting their lives in offices, or sales targets, or electric can-openers, or anything else for that matter.
Whole, this marvel of nature is to be admired from a safe distance, weaponised for aerial warfare or perhaps used in a horrendous practical joke, but not to be eaten! Small amounts turn meals into exhilarating explosions of flavour. If we receive letters asking for new clothes after you soiled yours eating a complete Trinidad Moruga Scorpion as an outstanding idea after a beer or five, we shall laugh at you and tell your friends.
Luckily for the more adventurous flavour-hunters, our farm now has an established crop of home-grown Trinidad Moruga Scorpion peppers. No mass-production multinationals here, we grow with heart and with an appreciation of vivacious flavours.