Once a record holder for the hottest chili pepper in the world, the Ghost pepper is a force to be reckoned with. This powerful pepper is well over 100 times hotter than the average jalapeño pepper, and can even reach up to 416 times hotter than jalapeños.
Think you can handle the heat? Keep reading to find out all you need to know about the impressive Ghost pepper!
History of the Ghost Pepper
The Ghost pepper plant is an interspecific hybrid chili pepper native to Northeastern India. It has been grown for hundreds of years and has many uses in Indian culture.
Other names for the Ghost pepper include Bhut jolokia, and Bih zôlôkia. From Assamese, these names roughly translate to “ghost chili” and “poison chili”. This pepper is also sometimes referred to as the Naga jolokia – “Naga” meaning “serpent” in Sanskrit. With names like these, there’s no doubt this pepper packs a punch!
Besides finding its way into various spicy dishes, some people use the Bhut Jolokia pepper by smearing it onto fences and walls to keep wild elephants and other unwanted guests from trespassing. This pepper is so hot, it’s even been used by the Indian army to create chili grenades that burn your eyes by releasing fumes!
From 2007 to 2011 the Ghost pepper was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the hottest chili pepper on earth, coming in at a whopping 1,041,427 Scoville heat units. The title was stolen by the Trinidad Scorpion Butch T pepper in 2011.
In 2013, the Carolina Reaper pepper was crowned the hottest chili pepper in the world with an impressive average of 1,641,083 Scoville heat units – and still holds the title today!
Ghost peppers average between 2.5 to 3.5 inches long and about 1 to 2 inches wide. The most common color is red, however, orange, yellow, purple, chocolate, and even white varieties exist. Baby peppers are green before ripening. The skin is wrinkled and thin and the end of the pepper typically comes down to a point.
The heat index ranges from about 855,000 to 1.041 million Scoville heat units. A surprising aspect of many extremely hot peppers is that they typically have a noticeable flavor just before the spice kicks in. These peppers are no exception – there is a sweet, fruity, and slightly smoky flavor that happens right before the heat.
Once the heat starts, Ghost peppers have a slow-burning effect that intensifies over time. The heat builds, travels to your throat, stagnates, and typically lasts for about 15 to 30 minutes.
Eating Ghost Peppers
If you can handle the heat, adding these peppers to your kitchen can actually bring a whirlwind of benefits to your diet. However, as with any hot pepper, make sure to take caution when handling Bhut Jolokia peppers. The heat is extreme, and a little goes a long way!
People with preexisting conditions or who aren’t used to eating spicy foods may experience an upset stomach when trying extremely hot peppers. However, eating ghost peppers is not dangerous, and there are extra steps you can take to protect yourself from high levels of capsaicin!
The elevated level of capsaicin can give you chili burn – a painful burning sensation that may occur when handling very spicy foods. Wearing gloves can eliminate direct contact and reduce the risk of chili burn.
Wearing goggles and a mask can also protect you from fumes emitted into the air, which can irritate the eyes, nose, and throat.
Ghost peppers are great candidates for hot sauce, salsas, stews, Indian-inspired dishes, and they can even be dehydrated to create flavorful powders that can be used in a variety of ways.
If you need inspiration on how to include Ghost peppers in your kitchen, check out these exciting recipes that feature one of the hottest peppers on earth!
Although it may seem intimidating, the Ghost pepper actually has many reasons it deserves to be in your diet. Capsaicin promotes weight loss, alleviates congestion, is a natural painkiller, acts as an antioxidant, reduces inflammation, contains high levels of Vitamin C, and even has anti-cancer properties!
Growing the Ghost Pepper
Sowing, Soil, and Water Needs
Ghost pepper seeds have a long germination time and do best when started indoors. Start seeds about 6 to 8 weeks before you plan to transplant them outside. Seeds should be sown 1/4 inch deep.
Peppers can be transplanted outside once temperatures remain at least 70 degrees Fahrenheit during the day. Ideally, nighttime temperatures should remain above 60 degrees, but they must remain above 55 degrees in order for ghost peppers to grow properly.
Due to its Indian origins, the Bhut Jolokia thrives in hot and humid climates. These plants germinate best when the soil remains moist and between 80 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. A plant heat mat can be used to control soil temperature when starting seeds indoors. Nutrient-rich, well-draining soil with a pH of 6.0 to 6.8 is ideal for this variety.
Most Ghost chili seeds require 30 to 35 days to germinate. Once outdoor temperatures are warm enough and your seedlings are ready to go outside, there should be between 18 to 24 inches of space between plants and about 36 inches between rows.
Plants should remain moist, but be aware of overwatering – weekly watering should be sufficient for these peppers.
These peppers prefer full sun – at least eight hours of sun a day is ideal for this plant.
Bhut Jolokia plants typically reach up to four feet tall and two feet wide. Peppers are ready to harvest once they have developed their full color (typically red, but this depends on variety!). Peppers take between 100 to 120 days to reach full maturity. As always, it’s best to be cautious when touching raw peppers – gloves are the best way to stay safe!
Where to Buy Ghost Pepper Seeds
Because the Ghost chili has such extreme heat, it can be quite difficult to find in stores. If you’re looking to add this plant to your garden, the best way is to order the seeds online.
To get started with this spicy pepper, check out these Ghost Pepper seeds from Hoss Tools!
A Sizzling Sensation
With such unique characteristics, the Ghost pepper is certainly one of the most intriguing plants out there.
Want to know more about peppers? Check out our other blog posts on the pepper plant for different varieties, uses, growing tips, and more!
- About the Author
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Spending her early childhood in the Hudson Valley region of New York, Alanna Singletary has wonderful memories of helping her uncle tend to his lush garden each year.
Rather than turning on Saturday cartoons, her winter mornings were filled with sap collection and maple syrup production; while summer days brought tomato picking and countless hours tending to a homemade tomato sauce.
Now residing in North Carolina, Alanna continues to assist with her father’s grand garden and is working on growing crops of her own. Her garden experience at an early age set her up for a constant desire to learn, something she continues to carry in all aspects of life.