A few months ago, this so called "Ghost Chile" started popping up at the Santa Monica Farmer's market with no fanfare at all. It turns out Butch and Burma Baselice, purveyors of "Red Hot Foods" in Santa Paula, got their hands on some of these chili plants and decided to have a few Ventura County farmers try to grow them.
Philip McGrath had the most luck with the ones he planted inside his greenhouse.
"Honestly," says McGrath, "I didn't know what a ghost pepper was." He says it's called that because it turns you into a ghost -- meaning, kills you -- when you eat it.
Not really. We don't think. But what we do know, is that the people over at Red Hot Foods wear gas masks, gloves, goggles, and they even cover their heads when they work with the chilis for fear of getting the burning hot oil on their skin.
The Jolokias have measured 1 million units on the Scoville chart that measures spicy heat, compared with the Habanero's 357 thousand units. A common Jalapeno rates only between 2 and 8 thousand.
So, who eats these? No one we know. McGrath just grows 'em. Butch Baselice won't, even though his business is hot stuff. His wife, Burma, freely admits she's a "wimp," but gives anyone who wants to try them a hand with a little jam, or something else like bread or dairy, to cut the heat.
The sauces they make with them are burning hot, but, like the chilis themselves, surprisingly flavorful. For that split second that you can taste it, before your mouth catches on fire.