Carolina Reaper Chili

In November 2013 Carolina Reaper replaced the then record holder Trinidad Moruga Scorpion as the world’s hottest chili. Carolina Reaper’s capsaicin level is on a par with pepper spray. In the laboratory an average of 1,569,300 was measured on the Scoville Scale (SHU). Individual chilies even reached 2.2 million SHU.

For comparison: common pepper sprays, which are offered for sale in Europe, have “only” 2 million Scoville.

carolina reaper plant
Carolina Reaper Plant

This plant is not recommended for beginners in chili cultivation. Not that the cultivation of the plants is particularly difficult. However, experience should already be available in processing these extremely hot chilies. Most people learn quickly from painful experiences.

Mistakes made with this type of chili can be dangerously painful. Anyone who has ever rubbed their eyes after cutting chilies knows what is meant.

In professional circles, the Carolina Reaper breeder, Ed Currie, is known as a fantastic-crazy natural scientist1. He probably created the sharp Capsicum monster from a Naga and a Caribbean Habanero. Before the new strain got its fear-inducing name, he gave the chili the code name HP22B which stands for “High Power, Pot 22 and Plant B”2.

Later, the new chili plant was named after its origin, the US state of South Carolina. The second part of the name is probably derived from Grim Reaper. Carolina Reaper appropriately fills the role with the Grim Reaper.

To measure the capsaicin content, Ed Currie regularly sent a pound of chilies to Winthrop University in South Carolina. Over a period of about five years, before the entry into the Guinness Book, Professor Cliff Calloway and his students examined the samples. The degree of sharpness on the Scoville-Heat-Units scale was accurately determined using an HPLC method (high-performance liquid chromatography).

In addition to his professional career, Ed Currie initially devoted himself to chili growing as a hobby. He invested several thousand dollars in his breeding and in the entry in the Guinness Book of Records. Before Ed Currie became famous worldwide, he also sold his chili sauces at community festivals. Even back then he attracted the attention of his customers with his knowledge and passion for hot chilies. Many like the natural taste of his products.

Capsicum chinense🌶

Carolina Reaper is a relatively new breed of Capsicum chinense. She is probably a cross between a Naga and a red Habanero from the West Indian island of St. Vincent.

On the website of his company puckerbuttpeppercompany.com it is reported that Habanero seeds were brought by a friend from the Caribbean. If you take a closer look at a reaper pod, you will discover a dangerous-looking sting at the bottom of the chili.

This shape resembles that of a scorpion. Carolina Reaper chilies look very similar to 7 Pot Douglah or Trinidad Scorpion.

The surface and red signal color could be from a Bhut Jolokia. All suspected varieties from which the Carolina Reaper could be bred belong to the Capsicum chinense species.

Scoville🌶

Carolina Reaper has been the world’s hottest chili since 2013. With an unbelievable 1,569 million Scoville on average and peak values of 2.2 million SHU3. The chili with a hotness level of 10+++ is beautifully fruity, with spicy notes of cinnamon and chocolate. For an estimated 99.99% of the population, however, it is not suitable for fresh consumption.

Those who try it nevertheless, are then tormented by biting pain. The stomach then often reacts with cramping hiccups. Some still bring out words like: “Mmmh, very tasteful” before you squirm, spit, turn red and break out in sweat. On YouTube, you can find some crazy hotties.

If you grow the hottest chili on planet earth in the moderate climatic zones, the chili won’t be quite as hot as in the sunny subtropical countries. The capsaicin content is not only determined by breeding, but also depends on the growing conditions. If you want to get the last bit of pungency from the self grown Carolina Reaper, a lot of light and warmth is important.

Slightly stressed plants often form even sharper pods. You can achieve this by, among other things, a shortage of water. This may make chilies sharper, but it also means that fewer flowers and fruit attachments are formed.

On the scale of sharpness the Reaper is unbeaten so far. Hardly anyone would have thought a few years ago in a dream that such a high Scoville value is even possible.

When cutting the chilies, an oily substance sticks to the knife. These are the capsaicinoids in high doses that cause sharpness.

Processing🌶

Carolina Reaper Chili should only be processed by experienced chili lovers. For your protection, wear gloves, mouth guards and protective goggles. Keep water ready to rinse and milk to drink. Do not process alone. You will need a helper in case of emergency.

Keep all objects that come into contact with the chili away from children, animals and clueless people. Processing these chilies means a great responsibility. Remember, the chilies contain about as much capsaicin as pepper spray, which is partly covered by the weapons law.

The Carolina Reaper can be processed most tastefully into sauces and chili powder. A paste or purée similar to Sambal Oelek is another good variant for processing. Due to the murderous pungency of the pods, inexperienced chili lovers should consider using finished products.

Carolina Reaper chili plant🌶

Beginners should keep their hands off the Carolina Reaper plant. This chili gets dangerously hot. You wouldn’t expect anything else from the hottest chili in the world.

The chili plant grows about 1.5 meters high. It grows narrowly at the bottom and becomes about 1.2 meters wide at the top. They are gorgeous and strong plants. After five to six months, the Capsicum plant produces its first flowers. After nine months they hang full of red pods.

On the border between North and South Carolina, where the chili was grown, the climate is warm with a high humidity of over 60%4. In the garden, the best way to keep the chilies warm and humid is in a greenhouse.

A flower pot or bucket should hold about 10 liters of soil to give the roots enough room to develop. Only chili plants with sufficient root space can reach their full potential.

Cultivation🌶

With the particularly hot Capsicum chinense varieties you should start early with the cultivation. Start sowing at least ten weeks before the last expected frost. You should plant Carolina Reaper seeds no later than the beginning of March.

If you have missed this date, you can order good quality young plants by mail order. These are usually shipped from April. Experience has shown that there are supply bottlenecks for varieties that are in great demand and are also quite new on the market.

Therefore, you should procure the seeds or plants early so that you can start breeding in time. It takes about nine months from sowing to harvest. Your fruits should ripen by October with plenty of sunshine to achieve a “good” sharpness.

Chili Tomato Plants
Chili & Tomato Plants

Growing the seeds is quite unproblematic. Many growers report a good germination rate. You can also easily achieve this by soaking the seeds in lukewarm chamomile tea for a day or by treating them similarly. Then plant the seeds in coconut swelling tabs. In a heatable greenhouse at 25 - 28 °C the chili seeds need 10 - 15 days to germinate.

Keep the growing substrate moist. Regular airing prevents mold growth. As soon as the seedlings are fully upright, you can start repotting, pricking and separating them. Your low-nutrient growing medium will only be fertilized when further leaves are formed in addition to the cotyledons.

Care🌶

The care of the Carolina Reaper hardly differs from other hot chili plants. She likes lots of sun, enough water, nutrients and warmth. It is also important to have a planter of at least 22 cm diameter. The success depends directly on the right container size. Better you choose a 10 - 20 liter flower pot or buckets.

At the latest at harvest time you will see that the larger volume is worth it.

Make sure that the soil is permeable. The soil should be able to absorb a lot of water without creating stagnant moisture. You can achieve this with a mixture of coconut, tomato, perlite and sand. A pH value of about 6.5 is in the green range.

The substrate should always be slightly moist, never wet. Your chili will die if your feet are permanently wet and the roots are not aerated. Always water the plants in the morning and shortly after sunset. Between watering in the evening and nightfall, the leaves should still be able to dry out. If water remains on your plant overnight, it is easier for fungi to infest it.

Use rainwater or water with a low lime content for watering to avoid raising the pH value.

If your plant can no longer draw moisture from the soil, the leaves will wilt. Do not wait too long to water the root ball. However, you can deliberately delay this if you want to push the pungency of the chilies to the extreme through stress.

Fertilizing🌶

Good compost provides for large chilies with a great aroma. This is mixed with the soil. The coffee prod is a good fertilizer and soil conditioner. You can add tomato fertilizer to the watering water. To do this, follow the dosage recommendations for the fertilizer. An NPK value of 5-10-5 to 10-10-10 is well suited.

The proportion of nitrogen (N) should not be excessively high. This would lead to faster growth, but the chili will only grow thin, produce fewer fruit and not look as nice.

If you grow chili plants in the garden, horse manure will ensure good growth and great harvests. The straw also loosens up the soil.

Harvest🌶

Wear gloves! At the last third of the stem, separate the chilies from the mother plant. A sharp knife or a small pair of sturdy scissors will help you to do this with minimal injury. You can tell when the harvest is ready by the even red color. About 100 days after flowering and 230 days after sowing, the time should come.

Do not get impatient. Chilies stay green for a long time until they ripen from yellow to red within a few days. Keep an eye on the area around the stem, the crown. This is where the first signs of an imminent color change appear.

The chilies have a lantern shape and end in a scorpion sting. Although the breed is still relatively young, it is very stable. Maybe two or three plants out of one hundred do not look like painted Reapers. But this is quite within the normal range and can also be seen in older breeds. To increase the gene pool of the stable plants, you should only continue breeding from very typical specimens.

Hibernation🌶

Since the chili can reach a considerable size in the garden and space is limited at the bright windows, you can cut the plants back to about 35 cm. Tips for hibernation and perennial cultivation mean that you will not need such a large flower pot. This is practical if you let the plant hibernate on a windowsill.

Before you bring the plant into the house, treat it with a natural plant protection product. Neem oil, for example, is very suitable. If there are only a few pests on the chili, they often spread explosively when the heating air in the house is dry. There are also no natural enemies, such as ladybirds, which keep the population low.

To cut back, use garden shears and place the cuts above buds. Some young leaves should remain on the plant. A few grains of slow release fertilizer, which you simply sprinkle on the potted plants, will help the chili plant through the winter and ensure a good start in the next season.

Update from 04/21/2018:
The Guinness World Records entry has been changed. The Carolina Reaper now has an average Scoville value of 1,641,183 SHU3.

Carolina Reaper Facts🌶

Variety name Carolina Reaper
Species Capsicum chinense
Origin South Carolina, USA
Plant size 100 - 150 cm
Maturing time 100 days
Scoville 1,641 million SHU
Germination period 8 - 14 days
Germination temperature 25 - 28 °C
Planting distance min. 70 cm

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