The ghost pepper, also known as bhut jolokia (which literally means ghost chili in Assamese is an interspecific hybrid chili pepper cultivated in Northeast India. It is a hybrid of Capsicum chinense and Capsicum frutescens and is closely related to the Naga Morich.
In 2007, Guinness World Records certified that the ghost pepper was the world’s hottest chili pepper, 400 times hotter than Tabasco sauce. The ghost chili is rated at more than one million Scoville Heat Units (SHUs). However, in the race to grow the hottest pepper, the ghost chili was superseded by the Infinity chili in 2011 and Carolina Reaper in 2013.
Unlike most peppers, ghost peppers produce capsaicin in vesicles found in both the placenta around the seeds and throughout the fruit, rather than just in the placenta.
Ghost peppers are used as a food and a spice. It is used in both fresh and dried forms to “heat up” curries, pickles and chutneys. It is popularly used in combination with pork or dried or fermented fish. In northeastern India, the peppers are smeared on fences or incorporated in smoke bombs as a safety precaution to keep wild elephants at a distance. The pepper’s intense heat makes it a fixture in competitive chili-pepper eating.
In 2009, scientists at India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) announced plans to use the peppers in hand grenades as a nonlethal method to control rioters with pepper sprays or in self-defence. The DRDO said that ghost pepper-based aerosol sprays could be used as a “safety device”, and “civil variants” of chili grenades could be used to control and disperse mobs. Chili grenades made from ghost peppers were successfully used by the Indian Army in August 2015 to flush out a terrorist hiding in a cave.