Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Arms Race to Grow World's Hottest Pepper Goes Nuclear

"Please don't try this at home—we are fully trained idiots." So went the disclaimer back in October 2010 as British pepper aficionado Leo Scott and his friend Lok Chi uploaded a video of themselves eating a new variety, the Naga Viper, developed by fellow grower Gerald Fowler. The warning was warranted as the two very experienced chiliheads sweated, writhed in pain and briefly lost the ability to speak after each chewing and swallowing one of the bright-red capsicums. A month later, the Guinness Book of World Records certified what Mr. Scott found out the hard way: The Naga Viper was the hottest pepper ever grown, measuring 1.382 million Scoville Heat Units, the standard measure of heat. That is 225 times as hot as a jalapeƱo can sometimes be. Unfortunately for Mr. Fowler, his record wouldn't stand for long. Four months later, the Naga was dethroned by the Trinidad Scorpion Butch T, the current record holder, at 1.464 million Scovilles. "I was shocked," says Mr. Scott, who lives near Bristol, England. "You've got this global community of chili growers who are competing ruthlessly with each other." The Naga itself had just surpassed the Infinity Chili, which held the official record for a mere eight months. Alex de Wit, who co-owns the Chilli Factory in Morisset, Australia, with his brother Marcel, is one of the evil geniuses behind the Butch T. The trick, besides some nifty breeding by Australia's Hippy Seed Co., is specially enriched soil. He says "worm poop" is one of his secret weapons. He plans to submit to Guinness another batch of Butch T peppers being grown in tropical Queensland. He estimates that the more favorable growing conditions could add 10% to their potency...more

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