Bhut Jolokia

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2007: Guinness World Records

Think you can handle spicy? Try ‘ghost chili’ / Spice used in India to cure stomach ills is named world’s hottest pepper

Manish Swarup / AP 2007

Bhut jolokia ("ghost chili"), a thumb-sized chili pepper with frightening potency, was in 2007 rated the spiciest chili in the world by Guinness World Records.

It is stirred into sauces; or put out for dinner raw, blood-red morsels of pain to be nibbled — carefully, very carefully — with whatever is being served.

It is called the “bhut jolokia” — the “ghost chili” because anyone who has tried it, they say, could end up an apparition. Says a farmer, “When you eat it, it’s like dying.” Outsiders, he insists, shouldn’t even try it. “If you eat one,” he told a visitor, “you will not be able to leave this place.”

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 chili 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.

Now, though, with scientific proof that barrelled the bhut jolokia into the record books — it has more than 1,000,000 Scoville units, the scientific measurement of a chili’s spiciness — northeast India is taking its chili to the outside world.

Exporters eagerly courted the international community of rabid chili-lovers, a group that traded stories for years about a mysterious, powerful Indian chili. Farmers started planting new fields of bhut jolokias, government officials started development programmes.

Frontal AgriTech, a food business in Assam, has been in the forefront of bhut jolokia exports.

In 2006, the company shipped out barely a ton of the chilis. In 2007-08, amid the surge in publicity, the goal was 10 tons to nearly a dozen countries.

Most exports are of dried bhut jolokias and chili paste. But, Frontal AgriTech officials added, the paste can be used for everything from hot sauces to tear gas. Because the heat is so concentrated, food manufacturers in need of seasoning can use far less bhut jolokia than they would normal chilis.

Many Assamese normally mix bhut jolokias into sauces, or pickle them as a sort of spicy relish, but also like to eat tiny pieces raw, enjoying the flavor and the sharp jolt.

“People have been eating this forever,” they say.

Only in the 21st century, though, has the rest of the world even heard of it. The first reports filtered out in 2000, when the government’s Assam-based Defense Research Laboratory announced the bhut jolokia as the world’s hottest chili. But their tests, reportedly done during research on tear gas, took years to be corroborated.

The confirmation came earlier in 2007 from New Mexico State University’s Chile Pepper Institute, where spiciness is a religion. The institute got its first bhut jolokia seeds in 2001, but it took years to grow enough peppers for testing.

Their results, backed up by two independent labs and heralded by Guinness, were astonishing.

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 jalapeno 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.

2013: Dethroned? Or sent on a sabbatical?

On 07 August 2013 Guinness World Records reported, ‘The hottest chilli is Smokin Ed's 'Carolina Reaper', grown by The PuckerButt Pepper Company (USA), which rates at an average of 1,569,300 Scoville Heat Units (SHU), according to tests conducted by Winthrop University in South Carolina, USA, throughout 2012.’

The gap between the Carolina Reaper and Bhut Jolokia seems too big to surmount through natural means. Therefore, laboratory versions of Bhut Jolokia will need to be churned out to regain the lost crown.

Till then Indpaedia will accept Bhut Jolokia as the hottest naturally grown chilli in the world. It export potential continues to increase because of the publicity.

2015: Grown in the UK

In a first, Naga chillies grown in UK

The Times of India Kounteya Sinha Apr 03 2015

A farm in southwest England has started growing Naga chillies -bhut jolokia -for the first time on British soil after years of trial and error.

The South Devon Chilli Farm's whole stock of 300kg of bhut jolokia, which is cultivated mainly in Assam, Nagaland and Manipur, this year was [consumed] within weeks.

The farm owner, Steve Waters, told The Times of India it was difficult to grow the Naga chillies. He said the chilli takes seven months to grow from seed to ripe fruit. “ Its demand in Britain has been rocketing and we have finally grown it on British soil in large volumes.“

Waters said people do not have to bank on dried Naga chillies imported from India but can buy them fresh, plucked straight from the farm.

“This is the first year we have started selling the fruit and have become popular.We are also making super fiery sauces from the Naga chilli,“ he said.

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