Growing the Poison Pepper

(Bill Gurstelle is guest blogging here on Boing Boing. He is the author of several books including Backyard Ballistics, and the recently published Absinthe and Flamethrowers. Twitter: @wmgurst)

I ordered naga jolokia pepper seeds from the Chile Pepper Institute at New Mexico State University. The naga jolokia, sometimes called the bhut jolokia, the ghost pepper, or the poison pepper, is the world's hottest chile pepper. My brother, the expert gardener, is growing them right now. These are pretty difficult to grow in Minnesota; they take forever to germinate and the drop flowers at the slightest provocation.

naga jolokia seedlings bb.jpg

The scale used to measure chile pepper piquancy is called the Scoville scale. At the low end is a green bell pepper and at the high end is 100% capsicum pepper spray.

In 2001, an academic visiting India and sent back seeds of a pepper he found growing there to NMSU. Shades of hades, the fruit of the naga jolokia were hot! How hot? The peppers were analyzed and found to be 4 times hotter than the previously known hottest pepper, the Red Savina. Can eating a chile pepper be dangerous? Judge for yourself.

In Absinthe and Flamethrowers, I devote a chapter to "Thrill Eating" which is practicing the art of living dangerously by eating "dangerous" foods. So name your poison: fugu, ackee, pokeweed, casu marzu, Amanita mushrooms, naga jolokia, or Los Angeles danger dogs. As Nietzsche said, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger.