I Ate the World's Hottest Pepper This Weekend

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So I ate the world's hottest chili this weekend. The Trinidad Scorpion pepper was measured at 1.4 million Scoville Heat Units last year, usurping the Bhut Jolokia as the king of capsaicin. It's slowly taking over many of the hot sauce offerings at chili conventions as the most popular pepper.

At ZestFest in Irving, it was featured in a dried powder and a few hot sauces, but it's popularity will almost certainly grow. Because who the hell wants to buy a hot sauce featuring the world's second-hottest pepper?

The Scorpion was also featured at a small booth set up by the Chile Pepper Institute. Associated with New Mexico State University, the institute is devoted to education and research of peppers spicy and otherwise. They sold a number of hot sauces and seeds for those who want to grow the pepper plants, and for those brave dumb enough, they handed out small bits of a fresh Trinidad Scorpion.

I should frame this experience by stating I'd already eaten a number of sauces from small plastic tasting spoons, so I might have been numb at this point, but that tiny, pinkish, pepper portion packed the most heat I've ever experienced in my life. Though my sliver was small, it was from the top section of the fruit and loaded with seeds and the placental material that contains most of the heat in a pepper.

Things started off quiet, almost innocuous. As I chewed the pepper it presented floral and fruity flavors that filled my whole mouth and nose. It was a fresh and vegetal taste compared to the rusty hot sauces I'd been indulging all day.

Then shit got real.

Some peppers are described as producing a heat that concentrates in different areas of the mouth. You'll hear people talk about a warm glow at the back of the throat or a fiery concentration at the front of their mouth. I can attest that the the Trinidad Scorpion chili should be classified as an equal opportunity palate destroyer. This is a full-face experience.

About a minute after eating the sliver, I was experiencing a full-on glow that invoked a jet engine afterburn. At two minutes, waves of oscillating sensations washed over my skin, first warm, then oddly cool. I described the building heat, and the chili dude responded with a phrase that shook me to my very center. "Yeah, it will continue to build for about four to five minutes," he said.

It was at this point that I became a little nervous. I decided to go for a walk.

For the next ten or so minutes I waited in the beer line (milk is for pussies) and experienced wave after wave of what I can't describe as pain, really. There was an odd sweaty patch on the right backside of my head that felt cool. There was a sort of euphoria-laden glow rooted in my inner chemistry -- what I can only describe as the body's natural response to, and preparation for, my impending death. Synapses fired, dopamine was released, synapses fired again. It was like taking a "bump" of pure capsaicin. (Put down the pot, kids; this stuff is cool.)

It took about 15 minutes to come down, at which point I decided I had to buy the seeds of the plant. Maybe I'll push them on Tom Spicer and see what he can coax from the embryonic plants. Considering what he's done with arugula, Spicer's scorpion chiles could make for a wild ride -- they'd have a nice ring, too. If he ends up growing them, I'm almost certain it's what all the cool kids will be doing this summer.

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