Associated Press reporter Tim Sullivan recently took a trip to a region in northeastern India that boasts the world’s hottest chili pepper, according to the folks at Guinness World Records.
Known as the bhut jolokia, the pepper registers at over 1,000,000 “Scoville units,” the industry-standard measurement that was invented by pharmacist Wilbur L. Scoville in 1912. Scoville relied on his tongue, but today a machine known as a High Pressure Liquid Chromatograph handles this hot job. For reference, a garden-variety bell pepper is a zero, while a typical Mexican habanero rings in at about 350,000 Scoville units. Tobasco sauce can be up to 5,000 units.
So 1,000,000 is pretty damned spicy, as Sullivan discovered when"”on the stellar advice of his editor"”he ate an entire bhut jolokia:
It was awful. My eyes watered uncontrollably and my nose ran. I felt like I was gargling with acid. My hands quivered. As the minutes passed, the pain grew worse.
I shoveled in yogurt: No relief. I chewed bread: Nothing. My head felt like it was expanding. My ears felt as if hot liquid was draining from them. Picture one of those old Tom and Jerry cartoons, with steam blasting from Tom’s ears as a train whistle blows. That was me.