When one thinks of chilli, one thinks of Mexico, Thailand, Szechuan and India, but believe it or not, a chilli producer in Australia has just produced the WORLD’S HOTTEST CHILLI!
The fiery little plant took a circuitous route to find its way to Australia, taking almost 500 years from its discovery by Europeans. On his second voyage in 1494, Christopher Columbus brought chilli seeds back from the new world to the Iberian Peninsular. Portuguese traders then carried the seeds to their African colonies in Angola and Mozambique. Chillies soon spread across Africa. In the pan-African language of Swahili, Piripiri translates as ‘pepper-pepper’. At some stage, Portuguese traders brought small red African chillies back to Portugal where they have been known as piripiri ever since. From the Portuguese colony of Goa in India, the plant spread across Asia.
With the increase in multiculturalism in the 1970s, the chilli has taken off in Australia in a big way. But what is it that gives chilli their zing? The capsaicinoids in chilli bind to receptors in the lining of the mouth, those same receptors that register pain, hence that burning zing. The body reacts to the pain by releasing endorphins, the body’s own pain killer, which gives the eater a good solid stone! But tread carefully gentle reader… capsaicinoids are also used as weapons. The Mayans used to chuck them at their enemies, today many police forces use them to incapacitate felons, and canisters of the stuff has been fired out of paintball guns at demonstrators since the days of the Vietnam war.
I suspect it was the endorphins, not the military applications that led Australian chef Marcel de Wit and his wife Connie to establish the Chilli Factory at Morisette near Lake Maquarie in the Lower Hunter Valley. A couple of years ago, Tim Smith, who runs the Hippy Seed Company, gave him some seeds to try out.
Working with an honours student studying Chillis at Sydney University, Marcel gradually perfected what is now known as the Trinidad Scorpion Butch T . It registers an extraordinary1,463,700 Scoville heat units, ahead of the current Guinness World Record holder, the Naga Viper, at 1,382,118. The superstar of the American chilli world, the Jalapenos measure only about 2500-5000 and the hottest Tabasco is a mere 30,000.
Marcel puts down his success to worm juice, a liquid run off harvested from his worm factory. In an interview with Australian Geographic magazine, de Wit said “I originally worked with it (worm juice), but didn’t understand why it worked. I discovered that worm juice contains nutrients, plant growth hormones and promoters, beneficial bacteria that colonise the root area, and chitin from dead insects that triggers the plant’s natural defense systems.
Check out this Youtube video showing Marc in full protective kit working on his obscenely hot concoctions.
Top 10 hottest chilli varietal groups with their Scoville unit ratings:
1. Trinidad Scorpion Butch Taylor (1,463,700)
2. Scorpion cultivars and Naga Viper Chilli (1,250,000 to 1,350,000)
3. Chocolate 7-pod and Infinity Chilli (1,200,000 to 1,250,000)
4. 7-pod varieties; Barrackpore, primo, yellow, red (1,100,000 to 1,200,000)
5. The Nagas; Bhut Jolokia, Bih Jolokia, Naga Jolokia, Dorset Naga, Naga Morich (900,000 to 1,100,000)
6. Naga x Habanero crosses; Habanaga, Nagabon (800,000)
7. Red Savina Habanero (577,000)
8. Chocolate Habanero or Caribbean Habanero (250,000 to 350,000)
9. Habaneros and Scotch Bonnets (100,000 to 250,000)
10. Tepins, Tabascos, Birds eyes (<100,000)