Progenitor of 'Bhut Jolokia' Found?

Posted by: Dave DeWitt



Jonah 7 Superhot ChileFor the 5+ years that the rumors and then stories about the  superhot 'Bhut Jolokia' from Assam in northeast India have surfaced, I've wondered about its origin.  Pods of Capsicum chinense are found all over the Caribbean, from the Scotch bonnet in Jamaica to goat peppers in Haiti to bonney peppers in Barbados.  However, it is the country of Trinidad & Tobago that seems to have the largest number of land races of that species, including the Congo pepper, the Scorpion, the 7 Pot, and now the Jonah 7, pictured here.  Of all of these, it's the Jonah 7 which most resembles the 'Bhut Jolokia', and the India connection to Trinidad is very clear: 40% of the people have an Indian ancestry, as compared to 37.5 % with an African ancestry.  So it's my theory that sometime after the Indian migration to T&T began in 1845, some enterprising person took Jonah seeds to India and they ended up as Bhut Jolokia, or "ghost pepper" in Assamese.  Recently, Marlin Bensinger, a friend of mine and the world's foremost expert on capsaicin extraction and testing, performed HPLC tests on the Jonah 7, and it was in the precise heat range of 'Bhut Jolokia'.  So maybe a mystery has been solved!  Thanks to Jim Duffy in San Diego, who grew out the pods and photographed them.

My esteemed colleague in Germany, Harald Zoschke, comments: "My theory is that Bhut evolved from Fatalii (which, of course could very well come from Trinidad, brought home to Africa by returning slaves). Please take a look at the attached picture - a Bhut Jolokia and a Bhut and Fataali ComparisonFatalii pod from my greenhouse. To me, they look like close relatives (and there's a Red Fatalii around, too). Now, what if Bhut is a Red Fatalii that trade ships brought from its home, Central Africa, to India, hundreds of years ago. And there, it just got cross-pollinated to receive the C. frutescens gene traces that Paul Bosland's DNA test revealed. Or maybe those genes were in the Fatalii already, which a DNA test could easily prove, providing evidence for my theory. Remember, besides C. chinense, Bhut's Innards of Bhut and FataliiDNA includes 7% of C. frutescens. Fatalii could have picked this up from Malagueta, which had spread early in Africa, becoming pili-pili or peri-peri. Also, while Fatalii isn't quite as hot as Bhut, both share that intense "instant burn," as opposed to the Habanero's delayed burn. And as my pic #2 shows, both share the poor innards, with very few seeds.  Who knows, maybe all three are very closely related."                                                  Fat Bhut

My comment back is that in this particular instance, Harald's 'Bhut' certainly does resemble a 'Fatalii', but pod variations within a land race are common, and sometimes the pods on the same plant have different forms.  See another pod shape of the 'Bhut' at right.  This is because they are land races--adapted varieties that have been growing in the same geographic area for hundreds of years--and not recently bred-to-be-true varieties.  The only way to really figure this out is to compare the DNA of all these varieties.


Comments (14)

Subscribe to this comment's feed
Hi Dave
Jim form Jim's Burning Ring of Fire here. Great article, really interesting and the comments are great also. I would like to add more pepper info to the app sometime in the future.
hot sauce
Jim , November 05, 2010
Mr. Stehnike, In the above article Harald from Germany states that the pods he is showing pictures of are Fatalii. He is making the observation that the Fatalii may be related to the Bhut.He is not calling the pods in the above article we are commenting on Yellow Bhut. As far as any Bhuts go whether they be red, Yellow or Brown you can sometimes get smooth pods with very little bumps on them. Even the the 7 Pot and Scorpion can get some really smooth pods. But I do agree that no matter what superhot species we grow the bumpy more twisted looking pods do carry more heat. Just my experience.
James Duffy , November 01, 2010
Here is a photo of the Yellow Bhut. It looks nothing like the ones pictured in the article above. We grew the seed from these this year and got the same twisted and bumpy chiles.
David Stehnike , November 01, 2010
Hello Claudio,
I grew out 22 of these Yellow Bhut plants from Dave. One plant came out red or normal. But the rest did come out pretty consistent looking like a Yellow Bhut. Some of the more smaller under developed pods might resemble a Fatalii or Devil's Tongue but for the most part I believe it is a Bhut. At least what I have grown. Now as for heat level it is far below a Red Bhut Jolokia. As most Yellow strains of any species are usually lower in heat. Write to me and I will show you my pictures.
James Duffy , October 29, 2010
Past year many of us bought seeds of this "yellow bhut" and grew it in 2010 growing season; results was unstable, some plants produced pods similar to Bhut, some not; no one pod however was a true super-hot ... lower heat and less placenta inside.
I thought it could be a mutation, assuming perfect isolation tecniques at the original source.
However this year we also bought a lot of Bhut seeds at the original source and one of our forum member sowed 30-40 plants or so ...
At first sight seeds appeared of quite poor quality, but sprouted quite normally.
However many of us obtained non-standard Bhut and the guy who sowed so many plants got every kind of strains, including yellow or orange pods, even almost sweet pods.
So we think that there was no mutation, but simply the seeds were not produced with isolation tecniques ...
Complete report (with many photos) will be available soon, at the end of the growing season.
Claudio Dal Zovo , October 28, 2010
Hello Dave, I enjoyed the article very much, particularly the segment discussing the Yellow Bhut Jolokia. I am one of a few who received Red Bhut Jolokia seed from the university of New Mexico 2 years ago that produced yellow pods. Out of approx. 600 plants grown, 7 grew that produced beautiful canary yellow pods. I saved the seed from the best pods and grew them again this year in isolation with the same results. Very bumpy and twisted texture, with the same heat and flavor as the original red Bhut. Janie @ Cross Country Nurseries also had reports from some of her customers who purchased Bhut chile plants, with a small percentage reporting the yellow fruit appearing. It seems to be about 1% of the seed, which we both purchased from the CPI the same year. I had a discussion with Dr. Bosland about these, talking about "mutation and recessive genes" how it happens etc.... I provided him with a package of seed last year and hope to see or hear something about his results. I have photos that can be viewed on our FaceBook Page "The Chile Farm" Look in the photo album to see last years pods and the pods we recently harvested this year. If you would like to use any of the photos you see, drop me a line and I'll email them to you. Thanks for all you do!!
David Stehnike , October 27, 2010
Hello Marco,
With all respect to you I will await your results. You are doing far more to keep a variety intact than most here in America are doing. I anxiously will await your results. Please E mail me so we can exchange pictures on our growing experiences. I would like to see more of the Chocolate Scorpion. I have had no luck in getting a good seed source here or a stable strain. Would be happy to trade seeds with you so we can grow from each others seed stock and monitor the results over a few years. I will keep data and relay it back to you. Does this sound good to you? Hope I did not offend you with my comments. I see so many here in the States that name something new without even growing in isolation. Again I respect you for what you are doing and hope we can share much in the future.
James Duffy , October 12, 2010
hello Jim ...

we are talking amiably ... I am Trying not to step on toes here too, no problem

I always like to confront

I cultivate these varieties from 3 years ... and these are already f3 ... Plants that are not consistent are discarded ... I always isolate myself and my seeds come from Trinidad directly

The AISPES next year will bring forward a proposed stabilization of these varieties ....

I do not attend to those who race to invent names ... my plants are fruits standardized ... and time will tell if I have worked in the right direction

You saw some pictures ... I see my plants every day ... and I can tell you that 7 pod yellow , Trinidad Scorpion chocolate AISPES, Trinidad scorpion yellow and yellow scorpion morouga AISEPS are different

Next year I will report on these varieties at the 2nd Congress AISPES .... we feel

Take care my friends

Marco , October 12, 2010
I am not trying to step on toes here. Just hear me out. Your Yellow Scorpions and Yellow Moruga are Yellow 7 Pot. The Yellow 7 Pot will produce pods with nice tails and also Moruga looking pods. But it is not a Yellow Scorpion. My Cardi/SR strain and Jonah 7 Pots also will produce Scorpion and Moruga looking pods but they too are not Scorpion. 7 Pot species get Scorpion tails. Scorpions can get wrinkled and bumpy like 7 Pot. What is happening now is we are getting so many new names for Scorpions and 7 Pots. Everyone is claiming to have a new strain when the reality is nobody has grown out these new strains for a period of 3-5 yrs consistently. When I mean consistently I mean if you have a defined pod shape and size majority of pods will look close to being the same. My yellow 7 Pod plants last year produced nice wrinkly pods. Now this year after overwintering they are producing large wrinkly brain like pods, Moruga looking pods and Scorpion looking pods. Guess I have all three sub-species in one plant! And my plants are isolated. I have my seed plants on 23 properties miles apart. My seeds came from Trinidad via Neal from Australia. So when I see a yellow Scorpion it will look like my red scorpions which have a much smoother skin than 7 Pots and are much smaller. But again I really think Scorpion and 7 Pot are related. And the most stable consistent strains I have seen where mosts pods look consistent are the Jonah Red, Moruga Red and CARDI strain. Growing these in isolation a few yrs in a row has given me consistent pod shape, size and heat level. And I do have a Jonah now that I may one day call the Jonah Scorpion if it stays consistent.
James Duffy , October 11, 2010
The trinidad scorpion chocolate is a reality ... as is the yellow scorpion trinidad

look here ....;ntry90344

post 35

We have all the info you're looking for ... I have other material

Marco , October 11, 2010
My opinion is the 7 Pots and Scorpion are related. Either the 7 Pot is a version of the Scorpion or the Scorpion is sub-species of the 7 Pot. I have grown Scorpions that were bumpy, wrinkly and no tails like a 7 Pot. And I have 7 Pot, Yellow 7 Pot and Jonah that have more pronounced tails than Scorpions. Moruga Scorpions are so close to an SR/CARDI 7 pot in size shape and texture. Flavors are all different though. And many years ago the Congo peppers crossed with these because you can see the size of Yellow 7 Pod and know it's has Congo in it. Still have not found stable strain of Yellow or Brown Scorpion. I see pics of them but not enough people growing them yet for me to see the strain come out the same every year.
James Duffy , October 10, 2010
Hello Dave ...

excellent article!!

is a bit of time we fans try to understand the origins of the Trinidad and bhut ... surely there is a relationship ... not easy to understand if it was first introduced to Trinidad and then in India or to India and then in Trinidad ... C. chinense in fact born in America and is likely what you write ....

many strains are similar ... and the Jonha and douglah have the mesocarp very thin while the 7 pod normal and scorpion no .... probably have developed more for a commercial that ... weighing more have led farmers to favor these varieties thicker ....

The roughness is different ... in some cases "brain strain" ... pointed in the other ..... new varieties have come out recently (some the result of my selections): morouga red, the yellow scorpion trinidad, trinidad scorpion chocolate, morouga yellow and many more .... some still not known.
If you are interested let me know that you upload my images
Marco , October 10, 2010
I grow almost all super-hot varieties from India and Trinidad since 2006 when they came up in the West for the first time.
I think that, beside the heat, there are great differences in flavour, smell and side effects between Indian pods (Bih Jolokia, Bhut Jolokia, Naga Morich) and 7Pod Jonah from Trinidad.
The Indian varieties have citrus or orange-like smell, while the jonah has a very strong smell, more similar to classic chinense.
Trinidad Scorpion and other hybrids (like Morouga blend) are more similar to Indian varieties.
I believe that the Jonah is the result of an hybridation between something like a Scorpion and a standard habanero.
Indian super-hot could be derived from Scorpion, but also the idea of the Fatalii like an ancestor sounds good.
However only Genetics can say last word.
Claudio Dal Zovo , October 08, 2010
Dave go to my Facebook page Trinidad 7 Pot I have about 40 Jonah Photos there if you want to see more comparisons. Also some Jonah with nice pronounced Scorpion tails. So I know the 7 Pot strains are definitely related to the Scorpion. Will also have some Fatalii new pics on my site in a week or so that look a lot closer to the Bhut than Harold's photos.
James Duffy , October 07, 2010

Write comment

smaller | bigger
security image
Write the displayed characters