Nibbles and Sips

Guinness Says the Hottest Pepper Is the S.C.-Grown Carolina Reaper

Plus, Watch Videos of Chile-Induced Vomiting!
By Eva Moore
Friday, December 27, 2013 |
Smokin’ Ed’s Carolina Reaper. Photo by Pucker Butt Pepper Company,

The Guinness Book of World Records has declared the Carolina Reaper, grown right here in South Carolina, to be the world’s hottest pepper. A batch of Reapers clocked in at more than 1.5 million Scoville units, according to a test run at Winthrop University.

Ed Currie, who cultivated the Carolina Reaper, runs the PuckerButt Pepper Company in Fort Mill, S.C.

The quest for the world’s hottest pepper has been moving quickly of late. Years ago, Guinness rated a habanero as the hottest pepper in the world. But in the last handful of years there’s been an explosion of “superhot” peppers, as The Atlantic detailed in a recent story. The Reaper is just the latest superhot to hold the title of hottest in the world. It took over from the Trinidad Scorpion “Butch T,” an Australia-grown pepper. Some chile aficionados consider the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion pepper the world’s hottest, after extensive testing by the New Mexico State University’s Chile Pepper Institute. (Here’s a Popular Science article from 2011 about some of the other competing claims.)

As Jeffrey Collins explains in his widely circulated Associated Press story about the Carolina Reaper, the heat of a pepper is partly a function of where and how it’s grown. The record is awarded to a batch of peppers, but not every pepper of that variety that’s grown will be quite that hot.

There’s a lot of infighting in the chile world. And Ed Currie has made some enemies, The Atlantic reports.

For one thing, he’s been very protective of his pepper, according to The Atlantic, with a legal team and strict policies about the use of seeds. In November, he told ABC he’d spent $12,000 so far on the quest for the Guinness title. However, he’s been generous in donating his peppers for cancer research — in fact, that’s the reason he started growing superhot peppers in the first place. He believes the Carolina Reaper is a gift from God, whom he often credits for its success.

Some claim that the Carolina Reaper is unstable, which is another source of tension: “As with any crossbreed, it takes generations of careful cultivation until its heirs consistently exhibit its desired traits. At best, critics accuse Currie of selling the Carolina Reaper before it was stable enough to produce a consistent crop, and at worst, they believe the pepper is inherently genetically unstable and incapable of ever producing a uniform crop.”

You can see some of this smack-talking on the Guinness record page.

And witness the snarky reactions to the Guinness announcement on The Hot Pepper discussion forum.

So, can a regular person get a hold of a Carolina Reaper? Well, as of right now, PuckerButt is sold out of Reaper seeds because of high demand. You can purchase some of Currie’s other chile seeds, though, or his various sauces and other products.

For now, the closest you can get is to watch some YouTube videos of people eating Carolina Reapers. These guys went right for the ice cream. In this one, there is vomit. (Starts around the 2:50 mark, if you’re interested.)

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