According to Guinness World Records, the hottest pepper in the world is the Carolina Reaper. According to the Chile Pepper Institute, the hottest pepper in the world is the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion. And there are several others which are likely much hotter than either of these.
The best way to decide which is the hottest pepper in the world for 2015 is with a New Year’s resolution to grow your own peppers and decide for yourself. The truth is, the idea that there is a single hottest pepper in the world is misleading for many reasons.
Average vs. Peak
The current Guinness World Record hottest pepper in the world is the Carolina Reaper. However, that determination is based on average SHU rather than peak SHU. Many present the very sound argument that one does not generally determine the fastest race car by its average speeds. So is the Carolina Reaper really the hottest pepper in the world? By come accounts yes. By others, no. It is certainly an incredibly hot pepper, but I wonder if declaring any particular pepper to be the hottest in the world does not detract from the joy of growing peppers.
Nature vs. Nurture
Before the Carolina Reaper, there was the Trinidad Scorpion Butch Taylor pepper. In April of 2011, this pepper made headlines when it was shown to reach 1,463,700 Scoville Heat Units (SHUs). At the time, that was an amazing number. Although initially developed by Butch Taylor, the pepper was grown out, tested, and made famous by The Chili Factory in Australia.
In addition to respecting the breeder for this incredibly hot chili pepper, the Chili Factory attributed “worm juice” to growing the world’s hottest chili. Strikingly different from today’s more predominant focus on DNA alone, the Chili Factory gave credit to growing environment, to nurture.
“Marcel adopted Neil’s idea in using liquid runoff from a worm farm – ‘worm juice’ – to fertilise the crop and he believes this is the secret to the super-hot chilli.” – From Australian Geographic
As any farmer of any crop can tell you, growing conditions are just as important as the seeds you plant. This is why county fairs do not give awards to the best cultivar. They give awards to the best grown. The same is certainly true of the sweetest water melon, the largest pumpkin, and yes… the hottest pepper.
This is not to take thunder away from the breeders, from the people who breed and improve the various lines, from those who cross lines and give us new genetics with which to work. Instead, it is an effort to return some of that spotlight to the grower. Which brings us to my New Year’s resolution for 2015.
My New Year’s Resolution
With much respect to the cross breeders and the inventors of new dna combinations, I hope to focus more on growing, refining, and using the amazing new and established peppers.