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World’s hottest pepper grown in South Carolina

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In this Dec. 12, 2013 photo, Ed Currie holds three Carolina Reaper peppers, in Fort Mill, S.C. Last month, The Guinness Book of World Records decided Curries peppers were the hottest on Earth, ending a more than four-year drive to prove no one grows a more scorching chili. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins)

There’s nothing like a little spicy food to stave off the cold winter months but you might want to think twice before munching on this pepper.

The Guinness Book of World Records has recently declared Ed Currie's Carolina Reaper peppers as the hottest on Earth, ending a more than four-year drive to prove no one grows a more scorching chili. The heat of Currie's peppers was certified by students at Winthrop University who test food as part of their undergraduate classes.

The bumpy, oily, fire-engine red fruit packs a serious punch of heat nearly as potent as most pepper sprays used by police. It's hot enough to leave even the most seasoned spicy food aficionado crimson-faced, flushed with sweat, trying not to lose his lunch.

The record is for the hottest batch of Currie's peppers that was tested, code name HP22B for "Higher Power, Pot No. 22, Plant B." Currie said he has peppers from other pots and other plants that have comparable heat.

The science of hot peppers centers around chemical compounds called capsaicinoids. The higher concentration the hotter the pepper, said Cliff Calloway, the Winthrop University professor whose students tested Currie's peppers.

The heat of a pepper is measured in Scoville Heat Units. Zero is bland, and a regular jalapeno pepper registers around 5,000 on the Scoville scale. Currie's world record batch of Carolina Reapers comes in at 1,569,300 Scoville Heat Units, with an individual pepper measured at 2.2 million. Pepper spray weighs in at about 2 million Scoville Units.

But Currie's peppers aren't just about heat. He aims for sweetness, too. He makes sauces and mustards with names like "Voodoo Prince Death Mamba," ''Edible Lava" and "I Dare You Stupit" with a goal to enhance the flavor of food.

With the mega-popularity of sauces like Sriracha, the hot pepper market is expanding. In less than five years, the amount of hot peppers eaten by Americans has increased 8 percent, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics.

While the world record is nice, it's just part of Currie's grand plan. He's been interested in peppers all his life, the hotter the better. Ever since he got the taste of a sweet hot pepper from the Caribbean a decade ago, he has been determined to breed the hottest pepper he can. He is also determined to build his company, PuckerButt Pepper Company, into something that will let the 50-year-old entrepreneur retire before his young kids grow up.

Currie has about a dozen employees and he continues his search for the hottest flavors he can grow.

Do you think you can handle this heat?

The Associated Press contributed to this story.