Your tongue feels like it’s on fire, your nose starts running, you swear your throat is closing up, your eyes begin to water...
Chances are you just ate some slightly spicy green chile, or maybe added a little too much hot sauce to your food.
Now, imagine all of those sensations magnified tens of thousands of times...you might be getting close to how it would feel to eat Dragon’s Breath.
Creating a New Chili
Creating the world’s hottest chili is a fascination for some people. Scientists spend their entire careers cross-breeding different types of chilis and genetically engineering new ones for the sole purpose of creating something spicier.
In May, the record was broken yet again with the creation of what is now being called the Dragon’s Breath chili. It is 1.5 times spicier than the previous record holder, the Carolina Reaper. Dragon’s Breath was accidentally created by the Wales horticulturist Mike Smith, who has been developing chilis for over eight years. The brand new chili is only the size of a fingernail! But don't be fooled, this little chili can set your tastebuds on fire.
The chili is so spicy that Mr. Smith is proposing that it could be used as a cheaper alternative to an anesthetic in third world countries because of it’s ability to numb the skin. The chili is so spicy that it is not actually made to consume.
What Brings the Heat?
So what exactly is it that causes a food to literally bring tears to your eyes? The culprit is called capsaicin, which is an irritant compound found in nearly all varieties of chili peppers. The compound is colorless, but highly pungent, and acts as a natural deterrent for mammals. Think of it as a natural defense against predators.
Capsaicin is often extracted from chili plants and is actually found in many places you might not expect. If you are an athlete, you might have found relief from sore muscles in a cream that made your skin feel slightly tingly and numb. Capsaicin is an ingredient in many ache relief creams.
Capsaicin is also the main ingredient in pepper spray. There are even several chapsticks that contain capsaicin! Beware, though, because when you apply it, it makes your lips feel like they are buzzing!
Measuring the Heat
Believe it or not, there is an actual scale to measure how hot a chili is. This scale is called the Scoville scale, and it was named for its creator, a pharmacist named Wilbur Scoville.
Chili peppers are ranked on the scale based on their concentration of capsaicin. The Dragon’s Breath chili is measured at 2.48 million Scoville Heat Units (SHUs). To give you some perspective, a Jalapeno registers at about 3,500-10,000 SHUs, and Cayenne Pepper registers at about 30,000-50,000 SHUs. In short, this new pepper is very very hot.
Still think you might be up to the challenge of tasting this new chili? Just make sure you have a glass of milk nearby to soothe your burning tastebuds...