I like spicy food. There’s something about testing how far I can go with it that is just irresistible to me. By coincidence, it seems that most of my family and friends are on the other end of this scale, being overwhelmed by the heat of dishes I find to be mild at best. My liking for hot food is in such sharp contrast with those around me that I start thinking that I can handle most spices.
Yet this is a mistake. That line of thinking has frequently lead to me over-stepping my bounds and straying into taste territories I am absolutely not prepared for. The truth is, when it comes to the scale of hotness I can handle, I’m probably still on the low end compared to a lot of people out there.
There are even Youtube channels entirely dedicated to people trying the hottest of chilli peppers out on their guests (or victims, depending on your point of view). A lot of these challenges involve the Carolina Reaper, which until today was known as the world’s hottest chilli pepper.
The Scoville scale is the measurement of the spicy heat of chilli peppers. The test is a subjective one, as it relies on the sensitivity of the individual testers, but is still a universally used test. While the previously reigning hottest pepper in the world hit 2.2 million on the Scoville scale, the new challenger hits as high as 2.48 million SHU.
“Dragon’s Breath”, named after its Welsh origins, was developed by hobby grower Mike Smith in collaboration with scientists at Nottingham University. Essentially, this new chilli pepper is so powerful that one drop of its capsicum oil would be detectable in 2.48 million drops of water. That’s even more potent than the pepper spray law enforcement uses, with American police only going as high as 2 million SHU.
Smith, 53, is the owner of Tom Smith’s Plants, and has been growing chillies and various vegetables for a number of years. He is planning on displaying the Dragon’s Breath at the Chelsea Flower Show next week, though he hasn’t dared to try one yet.
The pepper was developed for medicinal purposes, as the oils in the chilli are powerful enough to numb the skin, making it useful as an anaesthetic for anyone who is allergic to more common anaesthetic drugs, or for possible use in countries that don’t have the financial resources to acquire anaesthetic.
The Dragon’s Breath has to be kept in a sealed container to avoid its accidental exposure, as the effects can be dramatic. It has even been cautioned that it can cause anaphylactic shock in some rare cases, and will be of unbearable spiciness to most who try it.
Only one member of the team has tried tasting it so far, and after touching the tip of the pepper on their tongue found their entire mouth go numb. The team is expecting a confirmation letter from the Guinness Book of Records to officially name their pepper as the world’s spiciest any day now.
But while it may sound like chilli peppers may be a bad idea for your body, did you know that eating spicy food could actually help you live longer?