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Fear the Reaper: Breeding the World’s Hottest Pepper

As a fan of hot peppers and hot sauces far and wide, there is a heat we fear, a Scoville score so severe that we tremble at its mere mention. Meet the Carolina Reaper, the world’s hottest pepper, and “Smokin’” Ed Currie, the mastermind behind this brutal act of horticultural aggression.

Currie started breeding peppers back in his university years, laying the groundwork for his historic assault on humanity’s taste buds. What began as a hobby became a career, and in the three decades since he began pepper breeding, he unlocked the Reaper’s lineage. Part ghost pepper, part jalapeno, and all botanical fury, the Carolina Reaper is a twisted, blister-covered snarl of a pepper, devilishly red in brazen warning of the cruelty it holds.

Since 2013, the Carolina Reaper has held the Guinness World Record for hottest pepper. Heat in foods is measured by Scoville heat units, so to get a sense of just how hot a Guinness World Record-holding pepper is, consider this: a jalapeno rates at 5,000 Scoville units, a red habanero at 200,000, and a ghost pepper at 600,000. The Carolina Reaper’s record Scoville scale is 1.6 million. Nothing comes close to the Reaper’s claim.

Currie is naturally protective of his record-holding, world-class Reaper, as the pepper breeding community is one that is tightly wound and highly competitive. As rival breeders unleash new mouth-burners on the world, Currie has never stopped pushing pepper limits. He keeps secret breeds at his PuckerButt Pepper Farm that he claims are twice as hot as the Reaper ready in the wings should anyone else step to his level.

If you decide to get your hands on an actual Reaper or try Currie’s sauce version, don’t make a YouTube video of it. Hundreds have, and they’ll all tell you: No amount of milk will save you when this Reaper comes to claim your (taste buds’) soul.

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