I tried a small seedless dice of the pepper, approximately the size of a pea, and within seconds, my right eye was streaming tears down my cheek, my nostrils were dripping and, worst of all, I began to hiccup uncontrollably. It was as if my head had become a wood-burning oven, lighting up my tongue and the interior of my skull. Milk provided little relief, until the burn began to subside on its own some 10 minutes later.
The Bhut Jolokia is one of a rare breed of peppers: The nonprofit Chile Pepper Institute in Las Cruces, N.M., calls them, without any whiff of comedic hyperbole, “super-hot” peppers. Believe it or not, these freak-show specimens are slowly creeping into local farmers markets. I’ve seen super-hot chilies at the FreshFarm Silver Spring Market and the Takoma Park Farmers Market, where heat seekers sometimes treat the peppers more like schoolyard dares than take-home produce — just the latest example of that seemingly never-ending human desire to try to eat fire.
Lana Edelen, co-owner of Homestead Farm in Faulkner, Md., once had a customer approach her stand at the Takoma Park market and stare at the colorful carnival of hot peppers for sale — not just Bhut Jolokias, but their cousin, the similarly piquant Dorset Naga, as well as Trinidad Scorpions, Jamaican Hot Chocolates and Habanero Caribbean Reds. “He said nothing was hotter than a habanero,” Edelen recalls. You can almost hear her sigh over the phone at the man’s arrogance.
So Edelen cut open one of her flame throwers and offered a piece to the man, but with a neighborly warning. “It’s hot,” she told him. “I’m telling you beforehand.” He popped a piece into his mouth and told Edelen, “It ain’t too bad. There ain’t no heat yet,” she remembers.
“Then all of a sudden he was looking for something to eat,” she adds. An hour later, she spotted him again and “his teeth and lips were still on fire.”
To some, Edelen’s anecdote would be a cautionary tale. To others, it’s a come-hither “Body Heat” signal of seduction, much like those hot sauces with the orifice-oriented names (think: Sphincter Shrinker XXX
, Colon Cleaner) were in the 1990s and 2000s. But before anyone attempts this new daredevil stunt, they should know something important: Some of these super-hot peppers can be twice as fiery as the habaneros and Scotch bonnets often used in hot sauces.