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Dave's Fiery Front Page

Exploring the World of Spice and Smoke
Tags >> chile varieties

 

Naga ViperWe wanted to make sure that everyone understands the position of University of Warwick regarding testing of the Naga Viper.  Peter Dunn, head of communications, just sent us this statement:

The University of Warwick School of Life Sciences has been asked by a number of growers to test Chillies to ascertain their heat level on the Scoville Scale. Each of those tests has been done as a commercial service to those clients and the University has not publicized or press released any of the results.

One of those clients recently asked us to test a Chilli they described as a "Naga Viper".  We completed the test and gave the results to the client. We have since seen a number of media publish those results under headlines that this indicates that the tested Chilli is the hottest in the world.

We also understand from news reports that there has been some interest in having this published as a fact in the Guinness Book of Records.

While we cannot release our full report on this Chilli without the commercial client's express permission, we can say that we feel that any result obtained from the Chilli sample that was tested by us should be viewed as only a good indicator that this Chilli could meet the conditions of entry into the Guinness Book of Records. The sample provided to us was relatively small and, while we do not know explicitly what the Guinness Book of Records testing requirements would be, we would expect that they would require at least one more test with a larger sample and possibly a corroborating test in another lab.


Color Change in Bhut Jolokia

Harald Zoschke, our key chilehead correspondent in Europe, reports:

  • Our Calabrian-grown 'Bhut Jolokia' tested at 818,386 SHU (twice the result of Assam-grown 'Bhut' analyzed at the same lab in Hamburg, btw.!)
  • The Indians' superhot 'Chocolate Bhut' that I had tested gave only 417,888 SHU at the Hamburg lab.
  • This year, red 'Bhut' powder from Assam (directly from the grower/producer) traded to Germany as having "850,000 SHU," was tested in Hamburg and it delivered only 373,821 SHU - even some Chocolate Habaneros are almost that hot.  
  • Harald also notes: "Returning to my 'Fatalii' theory... A customer who purchased original Assamese 'Bhut' seeds from our shop complained that the pods weren't red but yellow. Bhut MutantHe was kind enough to send me some of those pods, and here's a red pod from my test plant, and his yellow mutant (both grown from from the same seed batch). While red is a dominant gene, obviously this (recessive) yellow gene came through on that other plant. Looks quite 'Fatalii', doesn't it? So who knows.... A friend of mine from Italy also reported about a yellow Bhut  just a few weeks ago. I sent our customer  a replacement pack of seeds, but I'll sure test-grow seeds from that yellow pod next year.  When comparing Scoville results, it is important which HPLC standard is used. Our food lab in Hamburg, Germany uses the defacto standard ASTA 21.3."


 

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.

 


Rocoto Pods Needed!

Posted by: Dave DeWitt

 

Rocoto PodDoes anyone out there have any rocoto pods (C. pubescens) that they could send me?  I need them for a photo shoot for our new digital magazine, Burn!, but I didn't grow any this year.  If you have four or five that you could send, please email me here.


Chile TreeChile peppers are hot, and we love them for it! From mild bell peppers to the insanely hot Bhut Jolokia, peppers can have an incredible heat range. But have you ever wondered why our favorite chile peppers are so hot? Join an American ecologist, his weary team of graduate assistants and scientists, and a curious journalist as they trek through the jungles and deserts of Bolivia in search of the answer.

Read the article from the Smithsonian Magazine by clicking here!


Chile Odds and Ends

Posted by: Dave DeWitt

Daily ExpressThe British tabloid Daily Express reported last week that chilli pepper sales are up 600%!  Of course, there is no citation for this statistic and no quoted source other than chilli farmer Salvatore Genovese who claims he ships out half a million pods a week of 'Dorset Naga', a superhot variety very similar to 'Naga Jolokia'.  I suspect both these numbers are highly exaggerated and suggest that the Express stick to its usual expertise: pin-ups and gossip.Morton Hot Salt

Morton released its Hot Salt in 2004 and because I don't use much salt, I had never tasted it until yesterday when Barbe Awalt gave me a plastic jar of it.  I have decided that it is perfect with butter for baked potatoes.  It's salt plus chipotle and cayenne powder, and it would make a good rub for grilled chicken in a pinch.

Green and Red SerranosI don't particularly care for green jalapeños, so for fresh salsas I grow serranos, and my two plants are simply covered with pods.  To the left is my favorite photo of serranos, which I took in the summer of 1989.  Mary Jane uses them in her Mexican-style (rather than New Mexican-style) tomatillo enchiladas.


Chile SeedsSeveral varieties of chile pepper seeds, including 'Wenk's Yellow Hots', 'Pico de Gallo', and the "unpredictably hot" 'San Juan Tsiles' have arrived at the so-called "doomsday vault" at the Svalbard Global Seed Vault located on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen near the town of Longyearbyen in the remote Arctic.  Svalbard has what scientists describe as the most diverse repository of crop seeds and is a safeguard against war, natural disasters, or diseases that could wipe out food crops.  More likely, it will be frequently accessed when genebanks lose samples due to mismanagement, accident, equipment failures, or funding cuts.  The seeds are stored in four-ply sealed envelopes, then placed into plastic tote containers on metal shelving racks. The storage rooms are kept at −18 degrees C. (-0.4 F).  The low temperature and limited access to oxygen will ensure low metabolic activity and delay seed aging.  The permafrost surrounding the facility will help maintain the low temperature of the seeds if the electricity supply should fail.

Diagram of Svalbard Global Seed Vault


Editor's Note: German chile expert Harald Zoschke comments on the Designation of Origin for the Habanero in Mexico.

 

Harald ZoschkeFirst, I'm not a legal expert nor a lawyer, so this is just personal opinion without any legal relevance.  It is strange that a generic variety name like "Habanero" was granted protection without a regional qualifier. Different story with the protected names over here. For example, there's a protected Piquillo pepper, but that one is named "Piquillo de Lodosa", after the town in the Navarra community where it is grown and protected for origin. But plain "Piquillo" can be grown anywhere and sold under this name. Another one is "Peperone di Senise," a protected pepper from the area around Senise in the southern Italian region of Basilicata. Even "Piment d'Espelette" has its origin in the name, and I heard of Calabrian efforts to protect "Peperoncini di Calabria." These three cases mean nothing but "Peppers from [region name here]." And "Champagne" or "Roquefort" also indicate their origin in the name, which as far as I understand is a vital qualifier to receive protection. You can name any bratwurst just that, but
"Nürnberger Bratwurst" has is protected and has to be made in the City of Nuremberg, Bavaria.
How much a plain "Habanero" would have to be respected here, I don't know. As pointed out, over here, only something like "Yucatán Habanero" would have received legal origin protection. Among other EU countries, Habaneros are grown in Holland for trade within the EU. I'd expect the Dutch growers to oppose. And what about Tropical Red Habanero from the Caribbean and the like? Also, speaking of the origin name, I think I read in one of your books that "Habanero" means "From Havana," so grant the name rights to Cuba, if at all.


 

Habanero Chile

On June 4, 2010, the states of Yucatán, Campeche and Quintana Roo were awarded a Denominación de Origen for the habanero variety of chile pepper by The Mexican Institute of Industrial Property (IMPI) of the Ministry of Economy. Thus the habanero joins the ranks of the Espelette chile of France and the smoked paprika of Spain, Pimentón de la Vera, as the only pepper products to win the same protection as Champagne, Parmesan cheese, and Dijon mustard. In Mexico, this means that if a manufacturer wants to use the word “habanero” for his product, it must contain habaneros made in these three states and nowhere else. If the pods were grown in Chiapas, the manufacturer cannout use the word “habanero” in the product's name or description. But what does this mean for U.S. manufacturers? Not much, especially considering all the “Parmesan” cheese sold in this country that is not made in the region of Parma, Italy. Yes, Champagne is protected in the U.S., where similar products must be called sparkling wine. But the spirits industry in the U.S. is highly regulated by the federal government while the cheese industry is not. So look for little change in fiery foods products in the U.S. The E.U. is another story, and I have sent this information to Harald Zoschke in Germany for his opinion.


Bonnie PlantsBonnie Plants, with 62 greenhouse production facilities, 450 sales reps, and 13,000 retail accounts offering vegetable, herb, and flower plants, seems to be the largest bedding plant supplier in the country.  You see their plants in big box stores like Lowe's and Wal-Mart, but also in some local nurseries and supermarkets.  Today I spoke with Chuck at Agra Greenhouses in the South Valley of Albuquerque and asked him why his chile pepper bedding plants were one-fourth the cost of the Bonnie Plants at nearby Wal-Mart.  "It's their business model," he replied.  They grow bazillions of bedding plants and their commissioned sales rep/drivers deliver them on consignment to all the locations, and Bonnie only gets paid when the plants are scanned at the retailer.  The leftover, unsold plants are thrown in the trash.  Maybe they trash 80 percent of what they grow, Chuck explained, and this, of course is why their prices are so high.  But they are convenient and the plants have grown well in my garden and produced well. After many years of doing this, I've figured out the best ways to acquire bedding plants.  The following list describes the methods from cheapest to most expensive.
--buy seeds and grow your own.
--buy bedding plants from local nurseries supplied by local greenhouses.
--buy bedding plants from big box stores.
Of course, if you're looking exotic chile plants, price is no object and you should definitely consider Cross Country Nurseries and their wonderful 500-variety bedding plant mail-order program, here.

 

 


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