Carolina Reaper

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Carolina Reaper
Carolina Reaper pepper pods.jpg
SpeciesCapsicum chinense
Hybrid parentageGhost Pepper x Habanero
BreederEd Currie
OriginFort Mill, South Carolina, US
Heat Exceptionally hot
Scoville scale1,569,300 on average SHU

The Carolina Reaper is a cultivar of the Capsicum chinense plant.[1] Developed by US breeder Ed Currie, the pepper is red and gnarled, with a bumpy texture and small pointed tail. In 2013, Guinness World Records declared it the hottest chili pepper in the world, surpassing the previous record holder, the Trinidad Scorpion "Butch T".[2]


30-day-old Carolina Reaper plant
Mature plant
Mature plant

The sensory heat or pungency detected when eating a Carolina Reaper derives from the density of capsaicinoids, particularly capsaicin, which relates directly to the intensity of chili pepper heat and Scoville scale.[3] Bred in a Rock Hill, South Carolina, greenhouse by "Smokin" Ed Currie, proprietor of the PuckerButt Pepper Company in Fort Mill, the Carolina Reaper was certified as the world's hottest chili pepper by Guinness World Records on August 11, 2017.[4][5] The official Guinness World Record heat level was 1,641,183 Scoville Heat Units (SHU) in 2017, according to tests conducted by Winthrop University in South Carolina. The figure is an average for the tested batch; the hottest individual pepper was measured at 2.2 million SHU.[5][6]

The crossbreed is between a "really nastily hot" La Soufriere pepper from the Caribbean island of Saint Vincent and a Naga Viper pepper from Pakistan.[7] and is named 'Reaper' due to the shape of its tail. It has been described as having a fruity taste, with the initial bite being sweet and then immediately turning to "molten lava".[8][9]

In May 2017, Mike Smith of St Asaph, Wales, working with Nottingham Trent University, claimed to have surpassed the Carolina Reaper with his Dragon's Breath pepper, reported to be 2.4 million SHUs, and applied to Guinness World Records for confirmation.[10] However, in September 2017, Ed Currie claimed to have bred a stronger pepper known as Pepper X having 3.18 million SHUs.[11]

Potential to cause severe headache[edit]

In April 2018, a case report of "thunderclap headaches" in a 34-year-old man, who was hospitalized a few days after consuming one Carolina Reaper pepper of unspecified size in a contest, included a presumptive diagnosis of reversible cerebral vasoconstriction syndrome (RCVS).[12][13] With no reason to believe pepper compounds had a role in the mechanism of RCVS, other clinical interpretations, such as a stress response from eating such a hot pepper, may explain the headaches.[14]


For growing, the pepper has been described as "a good all-rounder to try at home" by UK ethnobotanist James Wong, who said that they require temperatures of at least 18–20 °C (64–68 °F) and suggested growing in 30–40 cm (12–16 in) pots to restrict growth and produce fruit sooner.[15] When fully ripe, two peppers occupy the palm of the hand.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "About Us". PuckerButt Pepper Co. Archived from the original on February 23, 2015. Retrieved November 23, 2021. Smokin’ Ed gained the pepper industry’s attention in November 2010 when an NPR Reporter stopped by to eat an HP22B pepper–now known as Smokin’ Ed’s Carolina Reaper®.
  2. ^ "Confirmed: Smokin Ed's Carolina Reaper sets new record for hottest chilli". Guinness world records. November 19, 2013. Retrieved November 23, 2021.
  3. ^ Nagy, Z; Daood, H; Ambrózy, Z; Helyes, L (2015). "Determination of Polyphenols, Capsaicinoids, and Vitamin C in New Hybrids of Chili Peppers". Journal of Analytical Methods in Chemistry. 2015: 102125. doi:10.1155/2015/102125. PMC 4606152. PMID 26495153.
  4. ^ "Hottest chili". Guinness World Records. August 11, 2017. Retrieved November 23, 2021.
  5. ^ a b Hallock, Betty (December 26, 2013). "World's hottest pepper hits 2.2 million Scoville heat units". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on November 15, 2021. Retrieved November 23, 2021.
  6. ^ Collins, Jeffrey (December 26, 2013). "World's hottest pepper is grown in South Carolina". Associated Press. Archived from the original on July 1, 2015. Retrieved November 23, 2021.
  7. ^ Zucchino, David (November 27, 2014). "From Pot To Hot: How a grower produced world's most fiery chile pepper". LA Times. Archived from the original on September 30, 2021. Retrieved November 23, 2021. It took 12 years of crossbreeding for Currie to reach the pinnacle of the pepper world. He said he tested hundreds of hybrid combinations before finally crossing a "really nastily hot" La Soufriere pepper from the Caribbean island of St. Vincent and a Naga pepper from Pakistan to create Smokin Ed's Carolina Reaper — "a tidal wave of scorching fire," as the PuckerButt website puts it.
  8. ^ Tu Chau (August 18, 2016). "Eating the 'Carolina Reaper' pepper is 'like eating molten lava'". Pri. Archived from the original on March 8, 2021. Retrieved November 23, 2021.
  9. ^ a b Smithers, Rebecca (July 16, 2016). "UK shoppers to feel the heat as world's strongest chilli hits the high street". The Guardian. Archived from the original on February 5, 2021. Retrieved November 23, 2021.
  10. ^ "'World's hottest' chilli pepper grown in St Asaph". BBC News. May 17, 2017. Archived from the original on October 20, 2021. Retrieved November 23, 2021.
  11. ^ Tracey Saelinger (September 29, 2017). "'World's hottest pepper' will make you choke, sweat and cry for mercy". Today. NBC Universal. Archived from the original on October 9, 2021. Retrieved November 23, 2021.
  12. ^ Garisto, Dan (May 17, 2018). "Owww! World's hottest chili leads to days of severe headaches". Science News for Students. Archived from the original on March 8, 2021. Retrieved November 23, 2021.
  13. ^ Boddhula, Satish Kumar; Boddhula, Sowmya; Gunasekaran, Kulothungan; Bischof, Edward (2018). "An unusual cause of thunderclap headache after eating the hottest pepper in the world – "The Carolina Reaper"". BMJ Case Reports. 2018: bcr–2017–224085. doi:10.1136/bcr-2017-224085. PMC 5893965. PMID 29632122.
  14. ^ Tim Carman (April 12, 2018). "Can a chile pepper really cause an 'incapacitating' headache?". The Washington Post. Food. Archived from the original on April 13, 2018. Retrieved November 23, 2021. The authors may have been too quick to pin the blame on the Carolina Reaper. Other experts in the field of neurology and headache research say that there’s no clear evidence that capsaicin, the active ingredient in chile peppers, causes a narrowing of arteries. Nor does RCVS always lead straight to thunderclap headaches, which cause “incapacitating” pain
  15. ^ Wong, James (February 28, 2016). "Gardens: the hottest chilli ever grown". The Guardian. Archived from the original on March 9, 2021. Retrieved November 23, 2021.

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