In 2007, the Guiness Book of World Records wrote that Ghost peppers, Bhut Jolokia, are the hottest peppers in the world. On the Scoville Heat Index, Ghost peppers rate at about one million heat units, which averages approximately 300 times hotter than the hot Jalepeno pepper. If you ever try to eat one, you will find that the initial flavor is of a sweet, delicious chili pepper… that is… for the first few seconds. 20-30 seconds later, prepare for intense heat, heat so hot that it can negatively affect your health. I suggest only eating ghost peppers as part of a dish which incorporates the hot little peppers.
Ghost peppers get their name from their shape. As you can see, they look like little spirits flying around on the plant. At night, the younger peppers seem to glow in the dark when any light shines on them. I am sure that the proximity of harvest time to October and the idea of Halloween doesn’t hurt in perpetuating the name! Some people say that they are called Little Ghosts is because the heat sneaks up on the person brave enough to eat one.
In recent years, the Ghost Pepper has lost its place as the hottest pepper in the world. The current Guiness World Record-holding chili pepper (as of 2013) is called, Carolina Reaper, and was bred by Ed Currie in Rock Hill, South Carolina. The Carolina Reaper, however, is a cross-bred plant between the Ghost Pepper and the Red Habenero pepper, so in essence the Ghost Pepper is Reaper’s mama.
The Ghost Pepper is hottest when it is young and still light green. As it matures, it turns into a number of beautiful colors ranging from orange to purple with red being the most prominent in the Indiana garden. It does take a long time to come to maturity, though, so unless you start your seeds indoors a couple of months before outdoor planting, I suggest that you purchase good-sized plants in order to ensure that you have a long enough growing season to benefit from harvesting some of these hot little peppers. It is now October, and I have harvested about 30 ghosts peppers from my one plant; however, there are at least 80-100 more flowers for the potential for many more peppers. When the first frost comes, however, the plants will quickly die unless protected, so I usually pick the peppers when they are still young and let them ripen on a table in a dark, cool room which encourages the plant to produce more fruit.
I have some helpful hints for working with Ghost peppers: I never suggest that anyone simply eat a Ghost Pepper. I have found that just cutting them up in the house and cooking them requires a fan and ventilation, because the gas they produce, alone, is so hot spicy that it can cause people to experience choking, wheezing, coughing, chest pains, and burning eyes. I make Ghost Pepper Salsa and Ghost Pepper Hot Sauce, neither of which I eat (I am a mild to medium salsa kind of girl), but my son loves them. I also ensure that I double up my nitrile gloves when working with them, because one set of gloves still allows for penetration of the hot, natural oils to get on my hands. Avoid getting the fresh oils on your skin, in your eyes, or on any mucous membrane, unless you want to feel serious pain for several hours (Believe me, it isn’t worth it!). Finally, if you like to dry your peppers and store them or grind them for future use, I suggest that you not do it in the house, because the fumes can be similar to someone throwing a pepper gas bomb into your home. it simply isn’t worth risking your health over it.
The Ghost Pepper is fun to grow and is a wonderful conversation starter for the home gardener. Using it can be hazardous to the health of your family, though. Like any other thrill-seeking activity, do it with care and safety in mind, because this little Ghost Pepper is one hot Mama.