Nature Notes

Chile pepper stonewalls challengers

Bhut Jolokia’s reputation as the hottest pepper on earth was finally put to the test yesterday, as Arboretum grounds employees clipped a sample from the Gardens of Eatin’ Ornamental Garden and brought it to morning break as a snack.

Also known as the Ghost Pepper, the wrinkled, red vegetable is 400 times hotter than Tabasco sauce and is being developed for use in anti-terrorism campaigns by the Indian military. If that doesn’t tell you how hot the pepper is, also know that rural farmers in India slather their fences with the stuff to keep rogue elephants at bay.

Suffice it to say, the Arboretum interns and summer staff that lined up to challenge the pepper had little chance.  

The strongest of stomaches were reduced to uncomfortable coughs and beading, sweaty brows — those a little more faint of heart were sent scrambling for the restuarant’s saltine crackers and bottled milk, fanning their mouths and squirming in their seats as their sinuses were flushed out.

One wide-eyed student worker was heard lamenting: “I’m going to throw up. I’m going to throw up,” as she wiped at tears and clutched ice water, cheeks turned red from the small nibble of the infamous Ghost.

Through it all, Ted just sat back and enjoyed the show, wise enough to know how much punch the pepper could pack.

“If you’re going to try it, you better have milk, crackers, or sour cream ready,” he said, shaking his head. “I don’t think we’ll let them try that again anytime soon.”

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