The ghost pepper, also known as bhut jolokia and ghost chili, is an interspecific hybrid chili pepper cultivated in Northeast India. It is a hybrid of Capsicum chinense and Capsicum frutescens and is closely related to the Naga Morich.
|Hybrid parentage||Capsicum chinense × Capsicum frutescens|
|Scoville scale||1,041,427 SHU|
In 2007, Guinness World Records certified that the ghost pepper was the world's hottest chili pepper, 400 times hotter than Tabasco sauce. The ghost chili is rated at more than 1 million Scoville Heat Units (SHUs). However, in the race to grow the hottest pepper, the ghost chili was superseded by the Infinity chili in 2011 and Carolina Reaper in 2013.
Etymology and regional namesEdit
In Nagaland, its traditional region of cultivation, the chili is called Naga jolokia ('Naga chili'; also romanized nôga zôlôkia) and bhoot jolokia (also romanized bhût zôlôkiya). There is some dispute as to whether the latter name means 'large-pod chili', 'ghost chili', or should be rendered Bhot jolokia ('Bhutanese chili'). This name is especially common in other regions where it is grown, such as Assam and Manipur. Another Assamese name is bih zôlôkia ('poison chili'), denoting the plant's heat. Other usages on the subcontinent are Saga jolokia, Indian mystery chili and Indian rough chili.
In 2000, India's Defence Research Laboratory (DRL) reported a Scoville rating of 855,000 SHUs, and in 2004 a rating of 1,041,427 SHUs was made using HPLC analysis. For comparison, Tabasco red pepper sauce rates at 2,500–5,000, and pure capsaicin (the chemical responsible for the pungency of pepper plants) rates at 16,000,000 SHUs. In 2005, New Mexico State University's Chile Pepper Institute in Las Cruces, New Mexico, found ghost peppers grown from seed in southern New Mexico to have a Scoville rating of 1,001,304 SHUs by HPLC. Unlike most peppers, ghost peppers produces capsaicin in vesicles found in both the placenta around the seeds and throughout the fruit, rather than just the placenta.
Ripe peppers measure 60 to 85 mm (2.4 to 3.3 in) long and 25 to 30 mm (1.0 to 1.2 in) wide with a red, yellow, orange, or chocolate color. The unselected strain of ghost peppers from India is an extremely variable plant, with a wide range in fruit sizes and fruit production per plant, and offers a huge potential for developing much better strains through selection in the future. Ghost pepper pods are unique among peppers, with their characteristic shape, and very thin skin. However, the red fruit variety has two different fruit types, the rough, dented fruit and the smooth fruit. The images on this page show examples of both the rough and the smooth fruit. The rough fruit plants are taller, with more fragile branches, and the smooth fruit plants yields more fruit, and is a more compact plant with sturdier branches. It takes about 7–12 days to germinate at 32–38 °C.
Ghost peppers are used as a food and a spice. It is used in both fresh and dried forms, to "heat up" curries, pickles and chutneys. It is popularly used in combination with pork or dried or fermented fish. In northeastern India, the peppers are smeared on fences or incorporated in smoke bombs as a safety precaution to keep wild elephants at a distance. The pepper's intense heat makes it a fixture in competitive chili pepper eating.
In 2009, scientists at India's Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) announced plans to use the peppers in hand grenades, as a nonlethal way to control rioters by pepper sprays or in self-defence. The DRDO said ghost pepper-based aerosol sprays could be used as a "safety device", and "civil variants" of chili grenades could be used to control and disperse mobs. Chili grenades made from ghost peppers were successfully used by the Indian Army in August 2015 to flush out a terrorist hiding in a cave.
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