‘Pepper X’ is now officially the world’s hottest chilli pepper, rating at an average of 2,693,000 Scoville Heat Units (SHU).
It is grown by Ed Currie, founder of Puckerbutt Pepper Company (USA), who also created the previous record holder, the Carolina Reaper, which averages 1.64 million SHU.
Ed unveiled Pepper X on an episode of hit YouTube series Hot Ones.
Pepper X’s sizzling Scoville score was calculated by Winthrop University in South Carolina, who conducted tests using specimens from the past four years. For context, a jalapeño is around 3,000 to 8,000 SHU.
The Scoville scale is used to measure the spiciness of chilli peppers. It is based on the concentration of capsaicin, which is an active component of chilli peppers and causes a burning sensation when it makes contact with human tissue.
A commonly held belief is that the seeds of a pepper are what makes it hot. However, this is not true, as the capsaicin is contained in the placenta, the tissue which holds the seeds.
Pepper X’s exterior has many curves and ridges, meaning there is more area inside for the placenta to grow.
Ed cultivated Pepper X on his farm for over 10 years, cross breeding it with some of his hottest peppers to increase its capsaicin content.
“When we started the cross, there were two peppers that I really loved the flavour of, but neither of them were gonna be hot enough for my tastes,” he revealed in a First We Feast video.
Creating brand new breeds of pepper requires a lot of patience. With plants in the first generation carrying many of their parents’ traits, it can take several years for desired traits to emerge through selective breeding, and it takes around 10 generations for hybrids to stabilize with predictable traits and consistent fruit.
Ed does over 100 crosses every year, hoping that just one or two will make it through the 10-year development cycle.
“If we get desirable traits, like high indices of capsaicinoids we’re looking for, then we’ll keep on going on the cross. If it doesn’t work, then we gotta start all over again, and it’s a very time-consuming, very long process,” he told WIRED.
As such, Ed is already working on his next potential record breaker. With Pepper X taking the title of world’s hottest chilli pepper 10 years after the Carolina Reaper did it, will it be another decade before Pepper X is dethroned?
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