Food & Wine
Hot, hot, hot, very hot
How hot is hot? This question Brian Boynton said will most probably never be answered.
An appreciation for super-hot chillies is more than just a leisure pursuit. The growing techniques involved in producing the hottest or most visually appealing chilli push the boundaries of horticulture.
After an accident that left him paralysed in his lower body a year ago, Brian decided to take up a few hobbies, one of which is growing chillies.
He has five of the hottest chillies in the world growing in his greenhouse, the Carolina Reaper, the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion, Naga Viper, Orange Savina Habanero and Bhut Jolokia.
“The Carolina Reaper was already so spicy it reduced mortals to tears. However there is a new kid on the block that took first place. Dragon’s Breath is far hotter than the sacred Caroline Reaper. It is said that it could kill you. Dragon’s Breath clocks in with a Scoville rating of 2.48 million. That’s almost one million units higher than a Carolina Reaper, which has an average of 2.2 million,” Brian said.
The Moruga Scorpion is such a sought after pepper. It is native to the lands of Moruga in Trinidad and Tobago. Once you take a bite of this formidable pepper the heat never stops building. It rates 2 009 231 on the Scoville rating.
The Naga Viper rates 1 349 000. This hybrid of many different peppers and years of cross pollination created this variety. It also is an extremely rare pepper. Back in the day, the Red Savina Habanero, which rates 500 000 was one of the super hots.
The Bhut Jolokia is an inferno rating at 1 001 304 Scoville heat units.
History tells us chillies were grown and cultivated from 3500 BC. Mexicans used it to spice up their food. It was brought to the rest of the world by Christopher Columbus who discovered America in 1493. Christopher had set out from Spain to reach India to bring spices such as pepper back to his country.
The Scoville Organoleptic test or Scoville scale is a very interesting method used to rate chilli peppers. The original Sco-ville test asked a panel of tasters to state when an increasingly dilute solution of the pepper no longer burned the mouth, roughly one part per million of chilli ‘heat’ rates as 1.5 Scoville units.
“Chillies are high in vitamin C. It is about twice that of citrus fruits. Dried chillies are very high in vitamin A, and red chillies are a great source of B-carotene. Chillies have antibacterial qualities, and contain bioflavonoid, anti-oxidants most common in apple juice,” Brian shared some of its health benefits.
But why do chillies burn? The answer is very simple. Nerves in the skin respond to different kinds of stimulation, such as pain, cold, and heat. They also respond to chemicals. But chemical stimulation sends confusing signals to the brain. The chemical in chilli peppers that makes them hot is called capsaicin.
Brian’s favourite chilli is the Bishop’s Crown.
“It can be used fresh in salsas or salads, and can be dried or pickled as well. This is a gentle pepper with a sweet and fruity flavour. The body of the pods have some detectable heat, but the wings are sweet and mild.”
Brian is also very fond of the Sangria Pepper. He said this is the most beautiful ornamental chilli that surprises you with shades of orange, crimson, red and purple.
The chilli-fundi is renowned for his chilli sauces.
“Some chillies are just too hot to eat. But there is so much fun in taking some to a bachelor’s party or a bar and giving it to the guys to taste. Their reactions are priceless. It is not about taste anymore, it is now about bragging rights.”