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kleenex 07-31-2007 06:08 PM

AP: Indian region sees hope in hot chili
www.kansascity.com | 07/31/2007 | Indian region sees hope in hot chili


Around here, in the hills of northeastern India, it's called the "bhut jolokia" - the "ghost chili." Anyone who has tried it, they say, could end up an apparition.

"It is so hot you can't even imagine," said the farmer, Digonta Saikia, working in his fields in the midday sun, his face nearly invisible behind an enormous straw hat. "When you eat it, it's like dying."

Outsiders, he insisted, shouldn't even try it. "If you eat one," he told a visitor, "you will not be able to leave this place."

The rest of the world, though, should prepare itself.

Because in this remote Indian region facing bloody insurgencies, widespread poverty and a major industry - tea farming - in deep decline, hope has come in the form of this thumb-sized chili pepper with frightening potency and a superlative rating: the spiciest chili in the world. A few months ago, Guinness World Records made it official.

If you think you've had a hotter chili pepper, you're wrong.

The smallest morsels can flavor a sauce so intensely it's barely edible. Eating a raw sliver causes watering eyes and a runny nose. An entire chili is an all-out assault on the senses, akin to swigging a cocktail of battery acid and glass shards.

For generations, though, it's been loved in India's northeast, eaten as a spice, a cure for stomach troubles and, seemingly paradoxically, a way to fight the crippling summer heat.

Now, though, with scientific proof that barreled the bhut jolokia into the record books - it has more than 1,000,000 Scoville units, the scientific measurement of a chili's spiciness - northeast India is taking its chili to the outside world.


A chili's spiciness can be scientifically measured by calculating its content of capsaicin, the chemical that gives a pepper its bite, and counting its Scoville units.

And how hot is the bhut jolokia?

As a way of comparison: Classic Tabasco sauce ranges from 2,500 to 5,000 Scoville units. Your basic jalapeno pepper measures anywhere from 2,500 to 8,000. The previous record holder, the Red Savina habanero, was tested at up to 580,000 Scovilles.

The bhut jolokia crushed those contenders, testing at 1,001,304 Scoville units.

While small amounts of bhut jolokia are grown in a few other places, including Sri Lanka and Bangladesh (and a similar variety, the Dorset Naga, in England), horticulturists say the gentle sloping hills, heat and humidity of the Indian northeast make it the ideal greenhouse.

The pepper is known by any number of names across India's northeast. It's the "poison chili" in some areas, the "king of the chilis" in others. Just to the south of Assam is Nagaland, it's eaten in nearly every meal. As a result, it is often called the Naga mircha - the "Naga chili."

Still, getting your hands on a fresh bhut jolokia is difficult except in a handful of northeastern towns. A few specialty companies in the United States and Britain sell dried chilis and seeds, but the plants are painfully fragile, susceptible to many pests and diseases, and very difficult to grow.
I would love to buy a plant and grow this pepper:chef: :chef: :chef:

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