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Chilli Heat Guide

The Worlds Hottest Chilli

This is an area of hot debate. Many people have laid claim to producing the worlds hottest chilli pepper.

The Bhut Jolokia variety is the latest variety of pepper to win the famous Guiness World Record title as the worlds hottest chili pepper in October of 2007. Researchers from the New mexico State University Chile Pepper Institute measured a sample of the Bhut Jolokia taken from Assam in India at just over 1,000,000 on the Scoville scale.

The sample was grown from some Bhut Jolokia seeds that one of the researchers had obtained from Assam back in 2001. The specimen was grown in insect proof cages for 3 years prior to the record breaking fruit being produced.

However since Guiness gave the World Record to the Indian Naga a debate has broke out over the peppers origins. The indians claim the plant to be a Capsicum frutescens however the derived cultivvar Dorset Naga was thought to be a Capsicum chinense.

The Dorset Naga as it has become known was developed in a poly tunnel in deepest Dorset in the UK, a rather unlikely location for one of the hottest peppers in the world! The specimens were grown by Mr Michaud who runs a company that supplies fresh chilli peppers in the UK by post. Mr Michaud had been cultivating the species for a few years in his polytunnels before realising he may have a record breaker on his hands. In fact it was so hot that when preparing the fruit he never handled them without gloves.

Whoever produced the hottest specimen first is of some doubt then however what is clear is that the Naga family of chillie peppers are the hottest. They originate from North Eastern India and Banggladesh. Depending on which country or region you are in these chillies go under many different names: Bhut Jolokia, Borbih Jolokia, Naga Morich, Naga Moresh, Magahari. All are similar to the habanero variety in that they appear to have a slightly shrivelled skin however Nagas tens to have more pointed ends and ripen to either red or orange.

What gives a chili pepper it’s heat?

Well it is actually not the seeds that give a pepper the heat as many people think. In fact it is the seed membrane that holds the seeds to the flesh of the chili pepper where the real build up of heat is. The chemical responsible is known as capsaicin. One great way to combat the chili burn is to consume dairy products such a glass of milk or spoon full of yogurt.

How Hot are chillies?

There is an official heat scale to measure the heat in a chillie known as the Scoville scale, unsurprisingly named after it’s inventor William L Scoville. The higher the Scoville Heat Units (SHU) the hotter the pepper. Here is a rough guide to some of the more popular varieties:

Bell Peppers 0
Jalapeno 5,000
Cayennes 40,000
Tabasco 20,000 > 50,000
Habanero 100,000 > 300,000
Red Savina 350,000 > 575,000
Dorset Naga 900,000
Bhut Jolokia 1,000,000
Anti bear Pepper spray 2,000,000