Nature Notes

Can you take the heat?

Looks harmless enough…

In leiu of last week’s broiling temperatures, we thought it appropriate to introduce a smoking-hot pepper variety straight from the Arb – one you may think twice about before bringing to the dinner plate.

Don’t be fooled by the stature of this small plant. Despite its modest size now, it soon will pack enough punch to ward off rogue elephants.

Known as Bhut Jolokia, and sprouting in the Gardens of Eatin’ Ornamental Garden, this pepper plant has a few weeks to grow before living up to its better-known nickname, the “Ghost Pepper.”

The Ghost Pepper, developed in northern India, has been recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as being the hottest pepper on the planet, and nearly doubles its next competitor – the Red Savina habanero – in heat intensity. The pepper’s Scoville Heat Rating (the index used to calculate a pepper’s burn) remains 400 times hotter than Tabasco sauce.

We wonder where flames end up on this chart.

So why grow a pepper at the Arboretum that Bangladesh citizens wipe on fences to fend off wild elephants?

According to Ted: “Why not? I might have to throw some on my eggs in the morning.”

Good luck Ted. He evidently hasn’t seen other people’s attempts to put this pepper down.

As shown on the chart to the right, the only things hotter than the Ghost Pepper on the Scoville Heat scale are pepper spray and pure capsaicin, the plant chemical responsible for a pepper’s burn.

Ted’s Tip on Bhut Jolokia: “Wear gloves when you handle these guys – they’ll burn your skin. Even the tiny seeds can irritate your hands,” he said. “It’s not something you want near your face or eyes, so wash your hands before you even think about blowing your nose.”

The Ornamental Garden will soon be host to these hanging fireballs. Caution signs may be in order.

Just as the pepper is hot, heat is the only thing that will get these seeds to germinate. Ted planted these Ghost Pepper seeds once the soil remained a consistent 80 degrees, and the Ornamental Garden’s well-lit area of full sun in Home Demonstration promotes the pepper’s overall growth.

%d bloggers like this: