New pepper promises to light a fire in your mouth and everywhere else

Anyone who loves hot, spicy foods is usually in search of the next hot thing. In this case, the next unbelievably hot food that will hit US stores and restaurants is, by all accounts, the mother of all chili peppers.

The Bhut Jolokia chili pepper from Assam, India is no ordinary pepper, rather it is over two-times hotter than its closest competitor the Red Savina habenero. In tests first conducted by the New Mexico State University and subsequently confirmed by Guinness World records and others, the Bhut Jolokia reached over one million Scoville heat units (SHUs), while the Red Savina clocks in at a mere 577,000. Scoville units are a universally accepted measure of chili hotness.

That's not just hot, that's ferocious fry-your-brains hot. And indeed, the pepper's name translates into the "ghost pepper" either because if you eat a whole one you become a ghost or the brutal heat drives all the color out of your system.

In fact, Indian farmers say Bhut paste can be used for everything from sauces to tear gas. Because the heat is so concentrated, food manufacturers would to use far less Bhut Jolokia than normal chilies so it seems inevitable that the pepper will make cooking hotter and more economical. Published reports say that farmers in the region are trying to ramp up production as the chili-loving world begins to hear about the pepper. One farm owner said last year, her company shipped out barely a ton of the chilies. This year, with increased publicity, the goal is 10 tons to nearly a dozen countries.

A quick comparison of chili hotness:

* Tabasco Sauce: Between 2500 and 5000 Scoville units.

* Basic jalapeno pepper: Between 2500 and 8000 units.

* Red Savina habanero: Up to 580,000 units.

* Bhut Jolokia: 1,001,304 units.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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