|Hybrid parentage||Capsicum chinense × Capsicum frutescens|
|Origin||Assam, Northeast India|
|Scoville scale||1,041,427 SHU|
The Bhut jolokia (IPA: [ˈbʱʊt.zɔˌlɔkiˌja]), also known as ghost pepper, ghost chili and ghost jolokia, is an interspecific hybrid chili pepper cultivated in the Northeast Indian states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Nagaland and Manipur. It is a hybrid of Capsicum chinense and Capsicum frutescens and is closely related to the Naga Morich of Nagaland and Bangladesh.
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 However, the ghost chili was shortly superseded by the Infinity chili in 2011, followed by the Naga Viper, the Trinidad moruga scorpion in 2012 and the Carolina Reaper on August 7, 2013.
Etymology and regional names
In some parts of Assam, this chili is called nôga zôlôkia, believed to be named after the Naga warriors inhabiting the plains and hills of Nagaland. A 2009 paper coined the English term "Naga king chili" which refers to the chili's large pod size. It also stated that the most common Indian (Assamese) usage is bhût zôlôkiya and gives the alternate common name as bih zôlôkia, where bih means "poison" in Assamese, denoting the plant's heat. The Assamese word zôlôkia simply means pepper.
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 5000–10,000, 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 Bhut jolokia grown from seed in southern New Mexico to have a Scoville rating of 1,001,304 SHUs by HPLC. Unlike most peppers, Bhut jolokia 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 Bhut jolokia 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. Bhut jolokia 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.
Bhut jolokia is 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 ways to control rioters by pepper sprays or in self-defence. The DRDO said bhut jolokia-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 Bhut jolokia were successfully used by the Indian Army in August 2015 to flush out a terrorist hiding in a cave.
Annually, since 2005, the heat level of Dorset Naga has been tested, taking samples from different sites, various seasons, and states of maturity. The heat level has ranged from 661,451 SHUs for green fruit in 2007, up to 1,032,310 SHUs for ripe fruit harvested in 2009.
High as the results were, the BBC's Gardeners' World television programme recorded a much higher heat level for Dorset Naga. As part of the 2006 programming, the BBC gardening team ran a trial looking at several chili varieties, including Dorset Naga. Heat levels were tested by Warwick HRI, and the Dorset Naga came in at 1,598,227 SHUs, one of the hottest heat levels ever recorded for a chili.
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