Pepper X is the hottest chilli in the world, according to a statement from Guinness World Records. The chilli is around 500 times hotter than a jalapeno.
The squat, greenish-yellow pepper measures a whopping 2.69 million Scoville heat units (SHU). SHU is a scale of spiciness based on the concentration of capsaicinoids – a chemical irritant that makes peppers hot – in the plant. Pepper X outranked the previous record-holder, the Carolina Reaper, by around a million SHU.
Ed Currie, who bred the Carolina Reaper a decade ago, is also behind Pepper X. Currie told the Associated Press that he developed the pepper after a friend sent him a different variety of chilli that was “brutally hot”. When Currie bred that pepper with the Carolina Reaper, it was even hotter. It took him around a decade of experimentation to cultivate Pepper X in his South Carolina greenhouses.
Currie managed to eat a whole Pepper X in a video posted online Monday. “I was feeling the heat for three-and-a-half hours,” Currie said. “Then the cramps came.”
In mammals like humans, capsaicin binds to a receptor in nerve cells that triggers the body’s inflammatory responses in the form of a burning sensation. Birds lack this molecular receptor, so they’re spared the spice when spreading seeds through their droppings.
In severe cases, too much spice can cause vomiting, stomach pain and burning diarrhoea. Drinking milk is one way to cool the heat, as the dairy protein casein attracts and surrounds the oil-based capsaicin molecules.
If Currie has his way, Pepper X won’t hold the title of hottest pepper forever. He breeds more than 100 peppers every year. “Is this the pinnacle? No it’s not the pinnacle,” said Currie. “The next one we’re just starting the testing on now.”