carolina reaper

Carolina reaper: the hottest chili in the world

The Carolina Reaper pepper is the result of a hybrid plant of the Capsicum Chinense family, obtained in America by crossing two extremely hot pepper species: the Red Habanero and the Pakistani Naga Morich.

In 2013, precisely on November 14, it was awarded the fiery title of “hottest pepper in the world”, ousting the equally famous Trinidad Scorpion of Australian origin, which held the record since 2011. Since then, the Carolina Reaper has entered the Guinness World Records keeping to now (Guinness 2019) this record.

At least officially we are therefore talking about the hottest chili pepper ever, let’s find out more about this variety and its cultivation.

The origins of the Carolina Reaper

The name “Carolina Reaper” is inspired by a famous American horror series of the same name, we can translate it with the Carolina Reaper. The appellation of reaper or mower is due to the shape, since chili, in optimal climatic conditions, has a final part that recalls the typically curved tail of the scorpion, waiting to “attack” the prey.

This cultivar was born in America, and more precisely as the name implies, in South Carolina. Its inventor, Ed Currie, a known lover of spicy and passionate about experimentation, created this variety by manually pollinating the Naga Morich and the Habanero, without knowing exactly what he would get from it.

In 2011, a reporter from a national radio station randomly tasted the fruit, being shocked by its extreme spiciness. After recovering, he wrote a report in which he explained the incredible sensation of almost “physical” pain that the chili pepper had given him, however, leaving a very aromatic aftertaste, never experienced before.

Word of mouth was immediate: in a short time the pepper arrived at university laboratories to be analyzed and was officially declared as the “hottest pepper in the world”. The degree of spiciness was incredible, exceeding the value of 2,000,000 Scoville units (SHU), a score never achieved before.

The world record for spiciness was previously held by the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion, with 1,500,000 SHU.

Carolina Reaper’s plant

The Carolina Reaper is a chili pepper that can be easily grown in our climate, as long as a few simple rules are followed, starting from the germination phase and controlling the temperature in the early stages of life.

It is a variety that takes about 90 days to mature, forming a shrub about 50/70 cm tall, robust enough not to require a support stake.

The foliar apparatus is generous, with smooth and large leaves, to protect the young fruits in the phases of enlargement.

The fruits are irregularly shaped chilies, about 6/8 cm long, and of intense red color.

Scoville degree of spiciness of the reaper

The spiciness of a pepper depends on the capsaicin content in the fruit and is measured according to the Scoville scale, with a score in SHU (Scoville Heat Units).

In reality, there is no exact score attributable to a cultivar in general: the actual score can vary between different fruits of the same variety, since the spiciness also depends on cultivation factors, in particular on the characteristics of the soil.

However, the official measurement for the Guinness World Record indicates that the Carolina Reaper’s average spiciness is 1,569,300 Scoville units, with peaks of 2,200,000 units. An incredible score if we think that the record pepper until 2011 was the Bhut Jolokia with a score of 1 million SHU.

There are two varieties of chili that contend with the Carolina Reaper for the title of hottest ever, the English dragon breath and the recent cultivar called pepper x. Although the measurements give these two cultivars clearly above (2,500,000 SHU for the dragon breath and even over 3,000,000 for the pepper x), the overtaking in the Guinness Book of Records has not yet been ratified, so the Carolina remains officially the hottest in the world.

Organoleptic characteristics and culinary use

Being one of the hottest peppers in the world, eating a Carolina Reaper is a challenge for daredevils: it is not easy to bear the high burning sensation it leaves in your mouth. The concentration of capsaicin, the molecule that causes the typical sensation of spiciness, is so high that, if it comes into contact with the skin, it causes pain and a burning sensation. Although this effect generally disappears within about twenty minutes without causing damage, remember to handle the fruit carefully in the kitchen, using gloves and avoiding touching your eyes with your fingers … The Carolina Reaper’s SHU score is comparable to the values ​​of anti-aggression sprays.

Since 2017 it seems that the use of this fruit in the kitchens of the best chefs has significantly increased, and today the Carolina Reaper is one of the most sought-after products for lovers of extreme spiciness.

To be able to appreciate a pepper whose SHU value is so high that it flattens any other flavor under a “lava flow”, the only possibility is to dilute its effects. Cooking, or the production of creams or powders, is recommended to bring out the fruity, almost sweet taste of the Carolina Reaper, which recalls hints of cinnamon and chocolate.

By making a spicy oil, a preserve, or a Chilli jam, you can play on contrasts, combining chili with other flavors, for example with citrus or wild berries.

If you want to eat it raw as a challenge between friends, think about it very well: just search the internet for experiences of those who have already tried to swallow these peppers, unaware of what to expect.

One of the most famous events in the world is the “Chili Eating Contest”: an annual event where a dozen competitors have to eat more peppers starting from the least spicy to the spiciest! Obviously, the one who lasts the longest without giving up the challenge wins, but very few get to eat the Carolina Reaper!

Grow the Carolina Reaper

When you want to growing a chili plant, you must always keep in mind that these are varieties that are not born for our climate. Their rather long crop cycle, the timing of fruit ripening, and poor resistance to cold should not be ignored.

However, it is possible to grow the hottest chili pepper in the world in our garden, or even in pots on the balcony, generally, it is better to use heated seedbeds if not grow boxes.

Start with the seed

Obtaining the seeds of the Carolina Reaper is not difficult and certainly, the satisfaction of seeing the plant grow from the seed is priceless.

The germination phase is obviously one of the most delicate and we can deepen it in the post on the sowing of chilies: it requires a temperature of 25 degrees, and usually, the seedling with cotyledons emerges within a month of sowing, provided that you have used good quality seeds. In this sense, it is very important to make sure that the seed is well preserved and free from mold. It is necessary to water little and regularly, keeping the soil moist, but never completely soaked or dry.

Since temperatures, even at night, must never drop below 15 degrees, we can only sow Carolina Reaper outdoors from April, which is why sowing in a seedbed is worthwhile, which allows the period to be brought forward to February.

Transplant the seedlings

More simply, you can opt for the purchase of already developed seedlings, about 15/20 cm in height, ready for transplanting. This is usually the most common choice; for domestic use, three or four plants are sufficient to guarantee the average needs of a family. Even for the transplant, our Carolina Reaper can be fielded starting from April or May depending on the area, so that it does not suffer from any return of cold.

If we want to transplant a pepper plant grown in a seedbed, it is good to acclimate the plant, exposing it for short periods to direct sun, progressively increasing the exposure time. Sudden changes are bad for all plants, not just chilies!

Soil and fertilization

To cultivate it must be taken into account that the plant prefers nourished and balanced soil and that it has the right compromise between water retention and drainable.

It is optimal to mix peat and sand or earthworm humus with the soil. As a fertilizer, we can incorporate mature manure into the soil, with the help of a hoe or cutter.

Basic fertilization is very important to ensure the good growth of the fruits, and the chili pepper does not make any difference: the more your soil is properly amended, the better the final result.

Growth and maintenance

During the early stages of growth, the plant must be wet constantly, preferably in the evening, in small doses, ensuring moist but never soaked soil, and must be kept in the sun. Chilli has a root system sensitive to asphyxiation and is a plant that requires good care in terms of nutrition and water supply.

These are plants that are very sensitive to variations in temperature and brightness, as well as to strong temperature variations between day and night. The vegetative growth of the Carolina reaper stops if the temperature drops below 10/12 ° C.

The plant of this type of pepper prefers full sun exposure: 10-12 hours of sun a day represents an optimal time.

Do not worry if during the growth you will see some flowers fall: it is the natural selection of the plants, which will focus more on the remaining flowers, giving excellent fruit!

Collection of chillies

If you are a lover of extreme spiciness, it is advisable to water the plant a little in the week before harvesting. This allows the presence of water in the fruit to decrease, increasing the concentration of capsaicin, and therefore the spiciness.

This will probably send the foliar apparatus into a slight crisis: just water with a little water, enough to keep the plant alive, until the moment of harvesting.

Benefits of Carolina Reaper Chillies

Contrary to what one might think, chili, even the hottest in the world like Carolina, has an incredible series of positive and beneficial effects on our bodies. Some may even seem counterintuitive, but studies have scientifically shown that regular and moderate intake of hot peppers has positive properties and promotes a number of benefits.

  • Benefits of the digestive system (even in people with ulcers, chilli pepper, in precise doses, is beneficial)
  • Strengthens the heart making it healthier (helps the circulatory system and prevents heart disease)
  • Mitigates migraines (forces the brain to focus on the new “pain”, desensitizing it)
  • Relieves joint pain (capsaicin is actually a pain reliever)
  • Improves metabolism and promotes weight loss (increases metabolic rate and reduces hunger when ingested on an empty stomach)
  • Reduces the risk of cancer (has antioxidant properties)
  • It fights flu, colds and fungal infections (chillies are full of beta-carotene and raise the body temperature, activating the immune system).

Have we convinced you? Good cultivation and good chili at all!


You may be interested to read about the Grow peppers grow guide/ Calabrian chili grow guide/ Jalapeño pepper grow guide/ Pasta With Peppers Cruschi Recipe/ Stuffed baguette with peppers recipe/ Italian roasted peppers recipe/ Hot pepper jam recipe/ Nest milk pudding recipe.

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