With its humid subtropical climate, the American state of South Carolina has a reputation for its hot summers, but it now has a new claim to fame for heat, with confirmation that a local producer has developed the world’s hottest chilli.
Grown by the suitably named Ed Currie from the PuckerButt Pepper Company, Smokin Ed's Carolina Reaper delivers an average of 1,569,300 Scoville Heat Units (SHU), a figure now confirmed by Guinness World Records.
The Carolina Reaper’s heat rating beats the former record holder for most fiery chilli, the Trinidad Scorpion "Butch T" grown by The Chilli Factory (Australia), which was rated at 1,463,700 Scoville Heat Units (SHU) in March 2011.
The Carolina Reaper is described as having a fruity, sweet taste with a hint of cinnamon and chocolate undertones, as well as being hot.
Having started growing chillies as a hobby over 20 years ago, Ed quit his job last year to concentrate full time on cultivating his “weapon quality peppers”.
His record-breaking Carolina Reaper has been ten years in the making, having meticulously worked on stabilising and testing the pepper, which is a crossing between Sweet Habanero and Naga Viper chillies.
Ed says his interest in chillies became more serious after learning that capsaicin had potential as a cancer fighting drug, a discovery which led to him donating one-half of his pepper harvest last year to cancer research.
"My family dies from cancer a lot," Ed explains. "So I've been researching how not to die."
Chilli heat is measured by the Scoville Heat Unit (SHU) designed by American chemist Wilbur Scoville in 1912.
To give an indication of the Carolina Reaper’s spiciness, a Jalapeno can score anything between 2,500 to 8,000 SHU on the scale.
While commonly referred to as vegetables, chillies are in fact fruit from the plant genus "Capsicum".
The heat comes from the substance "capsaicin" which is found in all chillies. As well as livening up dishes, the heat also makes the body produce pleasurable endorphins afterwards.
Former record holder the Bhut Jolokia chilli registers at just over 800,000 SHU – potent enough for the Indian military to use it as an ingredient in a counter-terrorism hand grenade used for immobilising adversaries.