Tag Archives: Scoville Scale

How High Can It Go? Who will win the SHU race?

Way back in 1989 a chile farmer, Frank Garcia, found a mutant plant of red habaneros in his field of orange habaneros. At the time he did not take much notice of the anomaly other than it was very different in color. So he plucked the plant up and tossed it on his tractor then forgot about it for a while. As it turned out this strange plant would be the start of something new, the Red Savaina Habanero. It has several outstanding features, it ripened to a shiny bright red, was much larger and had a thicker wall than its orange counter part, and measured a whopping 577,000 SHU (Scoville Heat Units). This was ruffly 200,000 SHU higher than what was thought to be “as hot as it gets”, setting the Guinness World Records in 1994.

Red Savaina Habanero

Red Savaina Habanero

In 2000, scientists at India’s Defense Research Laboratory (DRL) reported a pepper, Naga Jolokia(aka Ghost Pepper), with a rating of 855,000 units on the Scoville scale, and in 2004 an Indian export company called Frontal Agritech obtained a rating of 1,041,427 Scoville units, which would mean a new world record, being over twice as hot as the Red Savina pepper and roughly equal to the similar-looking Dorset Naga, which is derived from the Naga Jolokia (C. chinese) a variety grown in West Bexington, Dorset, England. It was claimed in March 2006 to be the world’s hottest chile at 876,000 and 970,000 SHU. It was developed by Michael and Joy Michaud from the Naga Morich or Naga Jolokia chile, cultivated in Bangladesh that they purchased at an Indian market in England. As part of the 2006 program, the BBC gardening team ran a trial looking at several chili varieties, including Dorset Naga. Heat levels, that were tested by Warwick HRI and the Dorset Naga came in at 1,598,227 SHU, the hottest heat level ever recorded for a chili. It is not clear if this variety is different in any significant way from the original pepper from which is was developed. For a short period of time it was the hottest chile pepper in the world. It then became the second hottest pepper in the world at 876,000-970,000 Scoville units.

Naga Jolokia

Naga Jolokia

Naga Jolokia is also called Bih Jolokia in some places of Assam (Bih = Poison, Jolokia = chile pepper; in Assamese). Other names are Bhut Jolokia (probably due to its ghostly bite or introduction by the Bhutias from Bhutan poison chile), Borbih Jolokia, Nagahari, Nagajolokia, Naga Morich, Dorset Naga (from a farm market in the UK), Naga Moresh, Raja Mirchi (the king of chiles) and Ghost Pepper (because after eating one you “give up the Ghost”). These are all the same chile but named differently at different places, a common problem when trying to identify chile peppers. The Naga name may be due to extreme hotness represented by the aggressive temperament of the warriors of neighboring Naga community. Chile is known as Morich in Bangla.

Dr. Paul Bosland, Director of the Chile Pepper Institute at the New Mexico State University criticize with great skepticism and would not accept the findings of the Indian scientists from DRL in 2000 or Frontal Agritech in 2004. Dr. Bosland had obtained Naga Jolokia seed in 2001 and been growing them for 5 years saying nothing to shed light on the pepper until he submitted his variety for testing and was crowned by Guinness World Records as the hottest in the world at 1,001,304 SHU inspite of the hotter findings by scientists at DRL.

Infinity

The Infinity Chile Pepper is a chili pepper created in England by chili breeder Nick Woods of Fire Foods, Grantham, Lincolnshire. For two weeks the Infinity Chilli held the Guinness World Record title for the world’s hottest chilli with a Scoville scale rating of 1,067,286 Scoville Heat Units (SHU).

Naga Viper

Naga Viper

Flash forward, December 2010, Gerald Fowler, who runs a chili pepper company in Cumbria, England produces a chile pepper he calls the “Naga Viper”, an unstable three-way hybrid cross, between the Naga Jolokia, Naga Morich and the Trinidad Scorpion, measuring at a whopping 1,359,000 SHU. Once again the record is broken and a new heat level is reached.

Trinidad Scorpion

Trinidad Scorpion

Three month later, March 2011, a Trinidad Scorpion chile pepper grown in New South Wales, Australia, was tested and according to Guinness World Records, is currently the hottest chile pepper grown. It measured 1,463,700 SHU!

One thing to keep in mind is that the same pepper grown from the same seed stock can very greatly in heat range from year to year. This is caused by climate, weather and soil conditions that change each growing season. This is why test results can have a wide range for the same chile pepper. To some real degree, who grows the hottest can come down to how much rain and 90F+ degree weather or lack thereof your crop receive compared to your competitor. When chile plants are stressed they produce more Capsaicin, the chemical that makes pepper hot, to protect the seeds.