Farmer Sets Out to Grow a Pretty Plant—Creates World’s Hottest Pepper Instead

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Some peppers are perfect for adding a subtle, spicy kick to your favorite dish. Others are so hot they’re eaten as a test of strength. Then there are hot peppers that present a health hazard to anyone who attempts to consume one. The Dragon’s Breath chili belongs in latter group. As The Telegraph reports, the puny fruit packs a heart-pounding 2.48 million Scoville heat units—that's 1.5 times hotter than the current hottest pepper record-holder, the Carolina Reaper.

Competitive gardener Mike Smith didn’t intend to grow a pepper with taste bud-incinerating spice levels. His goal was to cultivate a chili plant on his Welsh farm that was good-looking enough to win Plant of the Year at the Chelsea Flower Show. With help from Nottingham Trent University scientists, who were interested in the chili’s medicinal potential as an anesthetic, he produced a pepper that’s attracting attention for reasons other than its beauty.

The chili’s heat content is so high that scientists warn that any daredevil who eats one might go into anaphylactic shock and die from asphyxiation. This led many outlets to describe the Dragon’s Breath chili as a pepper so hot it can kill you, but Gizmodo explains that eating a lethal dose of the stuff would be harder than headlines make it out to be. According to the article, you’d need to eat over half a pound, or 25 to 30 Dragon’s Breath chilis, to die from capsaicin poisoning. Based on Smith’s description of the taste, just getting past the first pepper sounds like a challenge.

“I’ve tried it on the tip of my tongue and it just burned and burned," he told The Telegraph. "I spat it out in about 10 seconds.”

Smith’s creation failed to win Plant of the Year at the Chelsea Flower Show, but if the scientists’ Scoville Heat Unit calculations are correct, the Dragon’s Breath chili will be crowned the world’s hottest pepper when it’s assessed by Guinness World Records.

[h/t The Telegraph]