Ghost pepper (also known as bhut jolokia) is a super-spicy pepper that originated in India. Although this pepper has been around for centuries, the western world was first introduced to the spicy pepper in 2000. At first, this pepper tastes smoky, almost sweet. But wait thirty or forty seconds—the intense heat sneaks up on you like a ghost.
Colors and Varieties at a Glance
Usually, ghost peppers are around three inches long and about one inch wide. The peppers are shaped like a cone with a spherical top and pointed bottom, covered in thin, bumpy skin. The most common color for a ripened pepper is red. They also can also be yellow, orange, white, brown (chocolate), peach, and even purple, depending on the variety. Pepper color and heat variations are listed below.
- Red, the most well-known variety, is extremely spicy.
- Yellow, are not quite as spicy as red, but they are still very similar looking.
- Orange, are a smaller variation of the bhut jolokia. They are a favorite for hot sauce. They are also bigger than red ghost pepper, they are typically four to six inches long.
- White, have more of an off-white almost yellow color with smooth skin. They have a similar taste to most traditional ghost peppers, but with some citrus flavor.
- Brown, (also known as chocolate) has a more pungent scent. Although these are as hot as the red, you’ll taste some sweetness and well as earth tones in them as well.
- Peach-colored, have the same spice level as the red, but there is more of a fruity aftertaste.
- Purple-colored, are the smallest of the varieties. These are also milder than the traditional red.
How to Grow Them
Ghost Peppers grow best in hot, and sunny environments with soil that’s at least eighty degrees Fahrenheit. The soil temperature should be consistent—never above ninety or below eighty degrees. Raised garden beds can help keep the soil extra hot.
This need for intense heat is one major reason why bhut jolokia grows so well in India’s tropical climate. At Sonoran Spice, we grow our ghost peppers in Assam, India. This area has a long warm season, which keeps the ghost peppers warm in their four to six-month growing period.
Want to grow your own? Ghost Peppers should be planted in well-drained soil. Each plant should be two to three feet apart to give them plenty of room to grow. You can grow ghost pepper plants in containers as long as they hold at least three to five gallons. At full size, the pepper plants should be about four feet tall.
You should water your plants about twice a week if they aren’t getting much rainwater, but be careful not to overwater. Only water when you can feel that the two top inches of soil are dry. A fertilizer that’s high in potassium and low in nitrogen can aid in ghost pepper growth. Sometimes spraying Epsom salts on your plants can also help prevent magnesium deficiency.
How Hot Are They?
The bhut jolokia is extremely hot! In the world of peppers, this hotness is measured based on the Scoville scale. The more Scoville heat units (SHU) that pepper has, the spicier it is. The bell pepper, for example, has zero SHU. However, the jalapeño and chipotle peppers measure 10,000 SHU each. The ghost pepper measures a whopping 1,041,427 SHU! The bhut jolokia was the very first pepper to measure over a million SHU.
Wilbur Scoville, a pharmacist, invented the Scoville scale back in 1912 to measure the heat of some of his favorite spicy foods. The scale he designed measured the concentration of capsaicin in each pepper. Essentially, it’s the same as if you were eating burning hot food with a temperature of 109 degrees Fahrenheit (43 degrees Celsius). And, because of modern technology, SHU can now also be measured using High-Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC).
Compared to Other Hot Peppers
Although many people believe that the ghost pepper is the world’s hottest pepper, that is not the case. It was named the World’s Hottest Pepper in 2007 and held that title for four years. Now, several peppers have been discovered that are even hotter. The Carolina Reaper is considered the World’s Hottest Pepper currently, measuring 2,200,00 SHU—that’s more than twice as hot as the ghost pepper. The Trinidad Moruga Scorpion comes in second, usually measuring a little over 2 million SHU. Other hot peppers that rank high in SHU, ahead of the ghost pepper, include the following:
- 7 Pot Douglah (approximately 1,900,000 SHU)
- 7 Pot Primo (approximately 1,500,000 SHU)
- Trinidad Scorpion “Butch T” (approximately 1,500,000)
- Komodo Dragon (approximately 1,400,000 SHU)
- Niga Viper (approximately 1,300,000 SHU)
- 7 Pot-Barrackpore (approximately 1,300,000 SHU)
- Bedfordshire Super Naga (approximately 1,100,000 SHU)