When Welsh fruit grower Mike Smith set out to create a novelty chili pepper for a national grower’s show, he had no idea he would accidentally end up with the world’s hottest pepper. Called Dragon’s Breath – a tribute to its Welsh heritage – the record-breaking pepper scores a whopping 2.48 million units on the Scoville scale of hotness.
Intended to be a tiny thing of beauty, the Dragon’s Breath pepper turned out to be a sensory beast that can’t really be consumed unless you’re willing to put your life at risk. Just to put into perspective how hot this thing is, the Scotch bonnet, a chili usually eaten as a challenge, scores between 100,000 and 350,000 Scovilles, military-grade pepper spray registers at 2 million units on the same scale, and the previous world’s hottest pepper was rated at a maximum 2.2 million units. Dragon’s Breath blows them all away with an impressive rating of 2.48 million Scovilles.
Photo: video screengrab
Experts believe that attempting to chew and swallow just one of these harmless-looking peppers would put a person at risk of death from anaphylactic shock. In laymen’s terms, it would burn and close up their airways.
Mike Smith, who created the Dragon’s Breath pepper with the help of researchers at Nottingham Trent University, says he hasn’t tried to eat one, because it “would not be a pleasant sensation.” He did put it on the tip of his tongue and found it unbearable.
“It’s not been tried orally,” the 53-year-old told the North Wales Daily Post. “I’ve tried it on the tip of my tongue and it just burned and burned. I spat it out in about 10 seconds. The heat intensity just grows.”
And because it’s so strong, Mr. Smith and scientists at Nottingham Trent University believe Dragon’s Breath could have an important medicinal use. Oil from the chili can numb the skin, so it could be used as an alternative to anesthetic in third world countries, or on people who are allergic to conventional anesthetic.
“It was a complete accident but I’m chuffed to bits – it’s a lovely looking tree,” said Mike Smith, who has been competitively show-gardening for eight years. He has applied to Guinness World Records for the title of world’s hottest chili, and his Dragon’s Breath is now also a contender for the Royal Horticultural Society’s Plant of the Year award.