It was created by a man in South Carolina by crossing a Ghost Chili — the second hottest pepper in the world — with a habañero. It’s a piece of horticulture-meets-chemical-warfare that is part of an ongoing escalation in hot chili peppers.
In fact, by the time you read this, it may not be the hottest on the planet any more, things are moving pretty fast in the world of stupidly hot chili peppers. But right now, the Carolina Reaper is where the heat is.
It comes in at around 1.5 million Scoville heat units, and the Guinness World Book of Records clocked that as the hottest on the planet. It’s about 300 times hotter than even the most intense jalapeño pepper.
When you cut the pepper it feels softer than others; certainly not hard like a bell pepper. There aren’t a whole lot of seeds in the middle and it chops up nicely.
You’re really meant to be wearing rubber gloves to do this, especially if – like me – you wear contact lenses. Even after a washing of hands and the passing of four or five hours, when you go to take you lenses out at the end of the night, having handled a chili pepper comes back to hit you. And this is the hottest on the planet. Like Freddie Krueger, you think it’s dead then it comes back to get you when you go to bed at night and you inadvertently give yourself Guantanamo Glasses.
In the mouth, chew and swallow.
And here come the fireworks. Eating one is a unique type of heat. In a way, it’s like being kicked in the balls. At first, there’s a bit of pain but hey, it’s not so bad.
A little time passes.
Then it really hits you. This is bad.
The sweats come on near instantly, but it’s all from the neck up. It’s a bit of a weird sensation to be dripping with sweat – literally dripping off my nose in this case – but fine everywhere else. This is a million scovilles of chili heat battering me from the inside of my face outwards.
The heat is a deep, numbing feeling, rather than the sharp sting of some other chili peppers or the nasal burn of something with mild heat like wasabi. This is like it’s emanating out in waves.
My lip is now numb. Just my bottom lip. Flicking it with my finger I can’t feel a thing. I’m not sure how that happened, but here we are.
Now my ears are popping and I think I can hear a dog talking to me from three streets over, but that might just be… nope, pretty sure that’s a dog who sounds like Scooby Doo.
Sweat is running off my forehead into my eyes, the right-side of my face feels horrible and I’d quite like this to stop now.
I’m craving cold water, but I know water just moves the heat molecules about. It’s like trying to wash a greasy pan with just cold water – nothing gets removed. It’s best to drink milk or yoghurt if you ever need to kill the pain of a hot chili, although downing lots of milk can make you throw up, as it’s not wildly uncommon to have nausea after eating one of these. Nobody said this was an easy thing to eat.
As it turns out, with the Carolina Reaper, drinking milk, and then eating some yoghurt, does little to ease the burn. I now just know what milkshakes in hell taste like. It’s a bad culinary trip I just need to ride out.
You have to sit and remind yourself that the thing about chili peppers is that no matter how hot they are, they are not actually burning you. The only reason they are hot is because they’ve developed a defence mechanism to prevent animals eating them. Unfortunately, evolution didn’t take into account people’s desire to test themselves with stupidly hot ingredients.
Then the heat drops rapidly. It’s a firework that burns bright and intensely for a short time, from burning to bearable, and I’m left with that glowing feeling like the evening after a day in the sun.
Within 20 minutes I can feel my face and have stopped sweating. It turns out that dog was just barking.
OK, test over, time to make the “Carolina Reaper chilli con carnage”. And that’s really how I’d recommend using one – just half of one, chopped finely and put into a large chilli con carne or a quarter in a smaller one. It infuses the whole thing and creates a dish that is hot, but deep, warming – a little numbing – and rich.
If you ever have a blocked nose, don’t bother with Lemsip, just make that chilli con carne and chuck in a chopped-up Carolina Reaper.
And the following day… let’s just say having a loo roll in the fridge on standby is a pro tip. It will clear your entire nasal passage and most likely your other main passage as well. The full service.