The Guinness World Records certified that the Bhüt Jolokia Ghost pepper was the hottest chili in the world in 2007, Rated at more than one million Scoville Heat Units (SHUs). However, in the race to grow the hottest pepper, the ghost chili was superseded by the Trinidad Scorpion Butch T pepper in 2011 and the Carolina Reaper in 2013.
The Bhut Jolokia is still one of the hottest pepper in the world, for comparison it is still three times hotter than a regular Habanero!
Now some of you, like my Mum, will be asking ‘why would you want to grow something so hot?’ It’s true that extreme pungency of these chillies limits their culinary value for most people. But aside from the heat, the Bhut Jolokia has a rich fruity flavour that is perfect to add a bit more kick to a home-made hot sauces. The thin walls of the fruits also make them well-suited for drying. The brilliant red peppers can clearly be recognised by the pointed spike on the end.
If you’re thinking about moving into the realm of super-hot peppers, take a stop off at this chili first. It’s at the lower end of the scorching hot area of the pepper scale, so it’ll help prepare you for the Scorpion peppers that lay beyond.
Native to Central America, Capsicum chinense is a tropical herb that produces fruit that is well known for its unique flavours and exceptional heat and is used as a flavouring and spice. The hottest peppers in the world are members of this species, some new varieties now score of over 2 million SHUs.
The plants grows 70 to 90cm tall and may require staking, if they become too top heavy. The flowers are white and occur singly or in clusters of two. The pods measure 5 to 7.5cm long by 2.5cm wide, they have a bulbous top and are slightly elongated with a bumpy pitted texture. Each chilli ripens from lime green to orange to red and the different shades on each pod are very attractive.
The plants of the have a bushy growth form and remain relatively small, with a height of 70 to 90cm (28 to 36in) tall. They need fairly warm conditions to get going, 28 to 32°C (82 to 90°F) would be ideal, it is therefore recommended to use a greenhouse and a heating mat. The plants need fresh, well-fertilised, permeable soil, and do not tolerate water-logging. They should be planted in a sunny, protected place with at least 6 hours of sunlight - preferably more. As the plants have a particularly long maturation period, it is recommended to grow them in a pot, so that you can easily bring the plant inside when the temperature falls below 12°C (54°F) during the day, allowing all the fruits to ripen. To keep the plant over the winter, cut it back by 20cm (8in) after harvesting and place in a light place where it is at least 15°C (59°F).
Because they ripen so late in the season when light levels are dropping rapidly, plants grown in Northern European cultivation will be a lot less pungent than those from India. Do not forget your gloves and remember to label your plants.
The heat level of this chilli is mega hot so be very careful when handling this chilli. Treat it with the respect that it deserves, remember that the tasting process requires considerable care and always have milk to hand.
Storage of Seeds:
Store seeds away from children, sealed in their packaging in a cool, dry, dark place, or in a fridge. Never store them in a freezer as the sudden temperature drop is likely to kill them. Don't leave the seeds in direct sunlight as the heat generated may kill them.
Sowing: Sow early December to January under glass, or for maincrop sow March to April. While handling the seeds, you may wish to wear gloves to protect the skin from the high amount of capsaicin.
The seeds should be sown in either a heated propagator or a heated greenhouse and kept at a constant high temperature. In order to produce fruit successfully, the seed should be sown early in the season and the plants must be kept at a constant high temperature and watered as required.
Fill small cells or trays with a good sterile seed compost, sow the seeds on the surface and press lightly into the compost. Cover with just a fine sprinkling (3mm) of soil or vermiculite. Keep the compost moist - don't let the top of the compost dry out (a common cause of germination failure) If you wish, spray the surface with a dilute copper-based fungicide.
This variety needs quite a high temperature during the germination process, around 28°C (80°F) is ideal. Cover the pot or tray with plastic film or place in a heated propagator, preferably keep in a warm greenhouse.
The seeds can be quite difficult and temperamental to germinate so patience is needed. It may take up to 40 days or more and care is needed to ensure the seed receives the right amount of water to aid germination. If overwatered the seed will rot before germination occurs and too little water means the seed won't germinate either.
When the seedlings have produced their first pair of true leaves they can be potted on into individual 7 to 10cm (3 to 4in) pots. Use good quality potting compost and mix in some organic slow release fertiliser. Pot the chilli on again before it becomes root-bound.
Water the seedlings regularly, but don't let them become waterlogged as this encourages rot. Don't let them dry out as they rarely recover at this stage. Water the soil, not the foliage. Once the plants have established, it is better to water heavy and infrequently, allow the top inch or so to dry out in between watering.
Seedlings should be grown in good light, but should not be exposed to direct sunlight from late spring to early autumn. Weaker sunlight from autumn to spring is unlikely to do them harm. Once seedlings have put on some growth they need lots of light. Growing them under a grow-light produces excellent stocky plants, as will a warm sunny windowsill. Adult chilli plants need lots of light. However, more than 4 hours or so in hot direct sunlight will dry them out quickly.
Acclimatise to outdoor conditions for 2 to 3 weeks before they are moved permanently outside. Plant them into rich moist soil. Flower do not form and fruit will not set if the temperature is much below 17°C (62°F) for most of the day, so wait until June/July for best results with outdoor planting.
After the first flowers appear, feed every one or two weeks with a half-strength liquid tomato feed. You could also add some Seaweed extract to the water once a week.
This variety may need a little extra help with pollination either by hand-pollinating and/or placing near to a Habanero type chilli pepper. It is not uncommon for the first flowers to drop before setting chillies but others should soon follow.
Pollinating Flowers: (optional)
Chilli plants are self fertile and will generally pollinate themselves. However, if you want to give them a helping hand to ensure that lots of fruit are set indoors, use a cotton wool bud to gently sweep the inside of the flowers, spreading the pollen as you go. The flower's petals will drop off as the green middle part of the flower starts to swell slightly. This is the chilli pepper beginning to grow.
Chillies will take a few weeks to develop and a further couple weeks to turn from green to red. You may pick them off the plant any time after they are fully developed but the longer you leave them on the hotter they will become. Do not leave them on for too long, as delaying after the chili is ready for harvest will result in a decline of further yields.
A little note: to control the heat, remove the seeds and the membrane on the inside of the pepper before adding to your favourite recipes; chopping it very, very fine will more evenly distribute the heat throughout the dish.
After picking, if you aren't going to eat them fresh, dry the peppers by putting them into a mesh bag, hang the bag up in a dry, airy, but not sunny spot. When they are completely dry, you can make paprika by grinding the peppers. Don't grind the stalks. You can regulate the spiciness of the result by including more or less of the seeds and veins.
Be careful handling these chilli seeds as they can cause a painful burning sensation. We recommend you wear nitrile or latex gloves to protect your hands and avoid touching your face while sowing, harvesting or handling these peppers.
When finished, dispose of the gloves then wash your hands thoroughly. Do not touch sensitive areas, rub your eyes, or visit the bathroom (ouch!) before washing thoroughly. Handle peppers with extreme caution, keep out of reach of children and immature adults.
Many people are unaware of the fact that pepper plants are perennials. We typically plant the seeds, reap the benefits of our labour and then let the plants die off when the cold weather hits. However, with a little effort, you can over-winter your pepper plants and have a more fruitful harvest the following year. Over-wintering your plants will bring you a number of benefits. While everyone else is planting seeds in the spring, your plants will have a head start with well-established root systems and stems. The harvest will come much sooner and last much longer, producing much more that a first year plant would.
At the end of the growing season, when the temperature begins to drop, pepper plants will become dormant. They are finished producing flowers and pods for the year and require much less sunlight and water. This is the time to begin the over-wintering process.
The first step for over-wintering your pepper plants is to cut them back drastically, leaving only a short stem. This may seem a bit harsh, but it will make your plant concentrate its energy on re-growth, rather than trying to sustain older, un-productive vegetation. Re-potting your plants in a smaller container will also help your plant reserve its energy for hibernation.
The most important step is to place your plants in a warm area that will give them the best chance of surviving the winter. Most of us don’t have a greenhouse, so a sunny windowsill will work well. If the temperature inside is comfortable to you, chances are your plants will enjoy it as well. Continue to water your plant, but do so much less often. The soil should be moist, but not damp as this will promote the growth of mould.
If you are successful in over-wintering your pepper plants, you can be sure to have an incredibly fruitful harvest the following year. While everyone else is still watering seedlings, you will be enjoying fresh, delicious peppers.
The Capsicum genus comprises over 200 species, and the Bhüt Jolokia (Bhutanese or Ghost Pepper) was thought to be an interspecific hybrid of C. chinense, a habanero type pepper, and C. frutescens.
Cultivated in northeast India, primarily in the Assam region, as of 2018, it has been reclassified as its own species, C. assamicum, on the basis of morphological studies.
Chilli terminology is confusing; pepper, chili, chile, chilli, Aji, paprika and Capsicum are used interchangeably for chilli pepper plants in the genus Capsicum.
The word Capsicum comes from the Greek kapto, meaning 'to bite' (a reference to pungency or heat). In Mexico a Capsicum is called a Chile pepper, while Chile enthusiasts around the World often use the spelling Chile or Chili.
Pronounced Boot-Joe-Low-Key-Uh - The name Bhüt Jolokia means Bhutanese Pepper in Assamese; the first element ‘bhüt’, meaning Bhutan, was mistakenly confused for a near-homonym ‘bhut’, meaning ghost.
In Assam, the pepper is also known as bih zôlôkia meaning 'poison chili', from Assamese bih 'poison' and zôlôkia 'chili pepper,' denoting the plant's heat.
In Bangladesh, the pepper is referred to as Naga morich ('Naga chili'). Similarly, in Nagaland, one of the regions of cultivation, the chili is called Naga jolokia ('Naga chili'; also romanized nôga zôlôkia) and bhut jolokia (also romanized bhût zôlôkiya). This name is especially common in other regions where it is grown, such as Assam and Manipur. Other usages on the subcontinent are Saga jolokia, Indian mystery chili and Indian rough chili.
It has also been called the Tezpur chili after the Assamese city of Tezpur. In Manipur, the chili is called umorok or oo-morok ('tree chili'). In northeastern India, the bhut jolokia is also known as the king chilli or king cobra chilli.
- Additional Information
Packet Size 20 Seeds Common Name Volcanic - more than 1,000,000 - one million SHUs! Other Common Names Also known as Naga Jolokia, Naga Morich Other Language Names Pepper, Capsicum, Chilli, Chile or Chilli Family Solanaceae Genus Capsicum Species chinense x frutescens - reclassified as its own species, C. assamicum Cultivar Bhut Jolokia Ghost Pepper Synonym Naga Jolokia, Naga Morich, or the Ghost Chili Hardiness Tender Perennial often used as an Annual Fruit Squat with scorpion tail. Ripen from green to red Height 70 to 100cm (30 to 40in) Spread 30 to 45cm (12 to18in) Aspect Grow in good light. Soil Rich moist soil. Time to Sow Sow early from mid February Harvest Pick them off the plant any time after they are fully developed Time to Harvest 100 days to harvest