Some Like It Really Really Hot


There’s an arms race afoot to grow the hottest pepper in the world. Lessley Anderson tasted a top contender, the Moruga Scorpion:

[U]pon popping the Scorpion into my mouth, the tip of my tongue feels like it’s being jabbed by a hundred needles and there’s a heavy burn rolling toward my tonsils. My salivary glands are in overdrive, drool gushes into my mouth and my nose is running. This all from eating a piece the size of a sesame seed.

The Moruga Scorpion, in fact, is at the same Scoville heat unit (SHU) level as police-grade pepper spray. Yet the market is hungry for the superhots, “with hot sauce just behind social gaming and solar panel manufacturing as one of our fastest growing industries”:

There’s a serious commercial advantage to being the official grower of the official hottest pepper in the world. Superhot seeds aren’t commercially available from large seed companies, so heat freaks wishing to grow their own have to buy them online from small suppliers like Duffy and Currie. Being able to market yourself as the record holder is great advertising. Hot sauce makers, who generally contract with one main grower, sell more sauce with a world-famous chile on the label.

“The Superhot peppers are an extremely valuable commodity,” says Dave DeWitt, an author and chile expert who runs the industry’s biggest event, The National Fiery Foods and Barbecue Show in Albuquerque, New Mexico. A typical Scorpion pepper pod at a farmers’ market will go for one dollar, notes DeWitt. “Think if you had an acre of these things; think how much money you could generate. Behind marijuana, they have the potential to become the second- or third-highest yielding crop per acre monetarily.”

For all of the superhot lovers out there, DeWitt has 1,001 Best Hot and Spicy Recipes. (And speaking of marijuana, he also put out Growing Medical Marijuana: Securely and Legally.)

(Photo by edenpictures)