There are those who scale Everest “because it’s there” and those who cheat on partners “because I could”, and then there’s the crazy olde people at Fiery Foods who decided to breed a chilli as excruciating as acid, just “because”. The full story can be seen here but to put it in a nutshell….the Bhut Jolakia (aka ‘Ghost Chilli’/Naga Jolakia/Dorset Naga) wasn’t hot enough apparently (at 1,041,427 scovilles), so some nutters have spent the best part of 2 years developing a chilli which is 19,558 units hotter. In case you don’t know, a scoville unit is the official method of measuring chilli heat (capsaicin), and is the amount of sugared water gram for gram it takes to dilute chilli heat to a neutral level. A regular bell pepper is usually around 100-500 units, a jalapeno around 2,500.
I have but one thing to say on this, which is…….why??? Being a serious ‘chilli head’ myself, I confess to a supreme addiction to the hot stuff, but I am also evangelical about the flavour. To me, there is no point in pure heat without taste. I tasted a few drops of a noxious compound called ‘devils sh*t’ at the Fiery Foods festival two years ago and – after I’d drunk half of East Sussex’s cider supply – all I was left with was a numb palate and a fierce desire for an antacid. Compare that with sipping a dropful of one of my favourite chilli sauces – St John & Dolly Smith’s or Devine Foods Coconut & Chilli. Both are hot, seriously hot, but they have such a beautiful flavour you want to go back for another taste, and another, and another. Chillis like the beautiful lantern-shaped Scotch Bonnet have such a stunning fruitiness it seems such a waste to ignore them in favour of sheer, masochistic, heat.