Register for an account


Enter your name and email address below.

Your email address is used to log in and will not be shared or sold. Read our privacy policy.


Website access code

Enter your access code into the form field below.

If you are a Zinio, Nook, Kindle, Apple, or Google Play subscriber, you can enter your website access code to gain subscriber access. Your website access code is located in the upper right corner of the Table of Contents page of your digital edition.


Crazy-Hot Indian "Ghost" Chili Sticks It to Taste Buds, Elephants, Rioters...And Poverty

80beatsBy Sophie BushwickAugust 2, 2012 3:03 AM


Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news


In 2007, the bhut jolokia, 100 times hotter than the average jalapeño, made it into the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s hottest chili…only to be dethroned in the book's latest edition by the Trinidad Scorpion Butch T

. Although the bhut jolokia has lost its world-record title, it's recently found a more practical role: alleviating poverty in its home province of Assam. At The Guardian, Helen Pidd describes

how bhut jolokia, also known as the ghost chili, became a lucrative crop for impoverished Assamese farmers when its world-record status drove fans of spicy foods to offer enormous sums for the fiery chili.

The Assamese government wanted in. Farmers were offered subsidies to cultivate the plant, with some famous tea gardens in upper Assam even getting in on the act. Trinity [a non-governmental organization] has selected another 2,000 Assamese farmers to grow the crop, said Nagen Talukdar, Trinity's secretary, last week. There is serious money to be made for anyone with the wherewithal to preserve their crops – a kilo of dried bhut jolokia sells for about 1,800 rupees [$32.45], a fortune for the average farmer, who generally survives on a subsistence level, taking home 150 rupees [$2.70] a day.

But there are only so many people hoping to sear their taste buds into oblivion. Much of the demand for Assam’s ghost chili comes not from thrill-seekers, but from the Indian defense ministry. Capsaicin

, the component of chilies that gives them their fiery feel, can be extracted from bhut jolokia and transformed into chili grenades capable of dispersing rioters and repelling elephants

. If you’ve got a burning desire to know more, check out the story at The Guardian


Image courtesy of Xaime Méndez / Wikimedia Commons

3 Free Articles Left

Want it all? Get unlimited access when you subscribe.


Already a subscriber? Register or Log In

Want unlimited access?

Subscribe today and save 50%


Already a subscriber? Register or Log In