Friday, July 11, 2014

Ghost Pepper 911 - How to Grow the Second Hottest Chili on the Planet

Bhut Jolokia Rated at 1,041,427 on the Scoville Scale

Bhut Jolokia 
I'll admit I'm not a fan of overly painful foods, however, I am intrigued by the possibility, so I've recently researched how to grow my own Ghost Peppers. In 2007, the Guinness Book of World Records named the Bhut Jolokia, more commonly referred to at the Ghost Pepper, as the hottest chili on the planet, coming in at a mind-boggling 1.04 million on the Scoville scale
This number has been surpassed in the record books by the Trinidad 'Butch T' in 2011 at 1.4 million on the Scoville scale. To put that into perspective, the humble Jalapeno tops out at only 10k on the scale. If anything, the plants are attractive, and can be distilled into a pepper spray beyond compare should the zombie apocalypse occur while I'm gardening.
Starting the Ghost Pepper Seedlings

First of all, if your local garden center has these bad boys on the shelf come Spring, I want to know your hook-up. But, for most of us, growing Ghost Peppers starts with seeds. Ghost is the premier online retailer for most things Ghost Pepper related, and they are my source for seeds. Paulie, the guy who runs the joint, recommends using Rapid Rooter to get the seedlings up and running, though natural sprouting should happen in about 14 days. As such, start your seedlings well in advance of the last frost date. Once up and the seed leaves have given way to maturing leaves, move the plants into larger containers with a 3/4 and 1/4 mix of starter soil and your garden mix (I'm on the Mel's Mix kick myself).

Transplanting The Ghost Peppers Outside
Peppers love the hot sun, and Ghost Peppers are no exception. Here in New Hampshire, I won't even think of dropping peppers in the ground until June, so in the meantime, my kitchen windows resemble dense jungle at times. Once the weather has steadied to days hovering above 70 degrees, it's time to transplant the young seedlings to their new home. In a square foot garden, plant two per foot so they are touching but not crowded. This contact with a similar plant will invigorate the growth hormones and make your plants take off. Once the bushes start to fill out, cull out one and remove to another planting spot, as these bushes will fill out like mad by the end of July.

Use Caution When Gardening

As a word of warning, be cautious when gardening around your mature, fruited Ghost Pepper plants. The still ripening fruits excrete an oil to keep pests away. A simple brush by can have you in agony for hours afterward just by skin contact alone. The fruits ripen to a bright red, which is why they are revered as ornamental plantings, but this also serves as a warning to animals to keep clear. Just as a colorful insect notifies predators to back off with outrageous color, so do the peppers to the same affect.

Using Your Chili Harvest
For me, it will simply be enough to raise an exotic in my garden to add some color against my greens and yellows. However, I also know I'm a curious sort, and have laid out a potential recipe for a hot sauce only a Texan could love, thanks to Paulie, once again, at Ghost He recommends drying the peppers for at least a month to start, then soaking them in vinegar for a few days. Drop the mix to a blender along with tomato puree, salt, and garlic, and blend for 1/2 an hour. Once well sauced, carefully move the sauce to a pan and boil at 200 degrees for 15 minutes. Let cool, and bottle with a warning label.

Looks like I might just have my Yankee swap gift idea for next year already.

Happy gardening!