World’s hottest chilli grown by Aussies

By Matthew da Silva 12 April 2011
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Some brave Australians have created a scorching chilli that’s too hot to handle without protective gear.

IT’S HARD TO IMAGINE, but when chillies first arrived in Europe with Christopher Columbus nobody knew what to do with them. The Spanish and Portuguese grew the fruit in their African colonies and from there it was introduced to Portugal’s colony at Goa, India before spreading into Southeast Asia, China, and Korea.

Biochemical food expert Professor Barbara Santich from the University of Adelaide is not surprised that chillies were readily adopted in those locales.

“Remember that pepper grows there,” she says. “They’d breed on great big trees with black peppercorns. People were used to the hotness and the spiciness of pepper and peppercorns.”

Use of chillies has exploded in countries like Australia in recent times, due to the culinary influence of the Asian diaspora, and a NSW Central Coast business The Chilli Factory has decided to go one step further to harvest the hottest chilli ever known.

World’s hottest chilli a scorcher

The fiery Trinidad Scorpion Butch T registers 1,463,700 Scoville heat units, placing it ahead of the previous world’recod-holder recognised by Guinness World Records, the Naga Viper, which comes in at 1,382,118. Jalapenos measure about 2500-5000 and the hottest Tabasco is 30,000.

“They’re just severe, absolutely severe,” says Marcel de Wit, The Chilli Factory co-owner. “No wonder they start making crowd-control grenades now with chillies. It’s just wicked.”

The chilli is so scorching, that Marcel and his team have to wear protective gear when handling the new variety. “If you don’t wear gloves your hands will be pumping heat for two days later,” he says.

The chillies primarily end up as a basis for a hot sauce, where the chillies still pack a punch.  “We went to Melbourne to cook our first batch of the sauce, the Scorpion Strike, we all had to wear full chemical masks and suit-up with full protection suits and gloves to cook these up.” Marcel says. “Imagine, when you start cooking with it – those fumes that come out of the pot.”

Marcel began cultivating the Trinidad Scorpion Butch T two years ago after Neil Smith, who runs The Hippy Seed Company, gave him one of the new chillies to try.

“He said, ‘Taste this.’ We cut it up and we cooked it and – oh, it was so severe.”

Neil constantly builds on his seed collection with new varieties from all over the world. But rather than just on-selling seeds to buyers, Neil first plants them on his Central Coast property to learn about the crops they generate.

The Trinidad Scorpion Butch T chilli

Secret to hottest chillies: worm juice

The two worked with honours student Mark Peacock, who was studying chillies at the University of Sydney. Mark’s technical skill supplemented the farmers’ practical know-how.

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.

“He originally worked with it but didn’t understand why it worked,” says Mark, who studied the fertiliser. He 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 defence systems.

Mark uses worm juice on the Trinidad Scorpion Butch T chillies growing in his back yard.

“We use very, very similar growing techniques and that probably has the most to do with attaining maximum genetic potential of the chilli,” says Mark.