Chile peppers (Capsicum L. spp.) are known for causing the sensation of heat or burning when consumed. The heat sensation is incited by the type and the amount of a group of capsaicinoids, the alkaloids found only in chile pepper pods (Zewdie and Bosland, 2001). The amount of capsaicinoids in a chile pepper pod is dependent on the genetic makeup of the plant and the environment where it is grown (Harvell and Bosland, 1997; Zewdie and Bosland, 2000). The capsaicinoids have evolved in chile peppers as a defense mechanism against mammalian predators (Tewksbury and Nabhan, 2001); nevertheless, this trait is an important fruit quality attribute and one of the most important reasons chile peppers are consumed.
Chile peppers were first introduced to Europe by Christopher Columbus. Shortly after the voyage of Columbus, Portuguese traders introduced chile peppers along their trade routes in Africa and Asia, including India (Andrews, 1999). By 1542, three varieties of chile peppers were recognized to be growing in India (Purseglove, 1968). Today, numerous landraces of chile pepper differing in shape, size, color, and heat level can be found in India as farmers selected chile peppers to fit their needs.
The northeastern region of India claims that the chile peppers grown in this region are the hottest in the world. Genetic resources of chile pepper landraces in northeastern India have not been well documented, but a few names mentioned include ‘Naga Jolokia’, ‘Bhut Jolokia’, and ‘Bih Jolokia’. The Assamese word “jolokia” means the Capsicum pepper. Mathur et al. (2000) reported the ‘Naga Jolokia’ to be a variety of C. frutescens L. and to have a very high heat level, i.e., 855,000 Scoville heat units (SHUs). The hottest chile pepper on record is the C. chinense Jacq. cultivar Red Savina with a heat level of 577,000 SHUs (Guinness Book of World Records, 2006).
This study was undertaken to 1) compare the heat levels of ‘Red Savina’, ‘Bhut Jolokia’, and habanero in a replicated field trial; 2) establish whether ‘Bhut Jolokia’ truly has a higher heat level than ‘Red Savina’; and 3) determine the species designation of the ‘Bhut Jolokia.’
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Baral, J.B. & Bosland, P.W. 2004 Unraveling the species dilemma Capsicum frutescens and C. chinense (Solanaceae): A multiple evidence approach using morphological, molecular analysis, and sexual compatibility J. Amer. Soc. Hort. 129 826 832
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