Farmers Market Report: Ghost Peppers at Genesis Growers

1.5 million units on the Scoville scale

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By David Hammond

At Genesis Growers at the Oak Park Farmers Market, there's just a small basket of Ghost Peppers on the table near the cashier. I'm guessing they don't move very fast.

The sign on the table threatens that they're "The World's Hottest Pepper," which was true not that long ago.

The Ghost Pepper, also called Bhut Jalokia, has been scored at about 1.5 million units on the Scoville scale (the generally accepted measurement system for chile heat). At one time, the Ghost Pepper was, indeed, at the top of the scale. Now, the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion and the Carolina Reaper hold the top position with over 2 million Scoville units.

Still, the Ghost Pepper can be one powerful pepper, though there is a good amount of variation among specimens. I've had Ghost Peppers that were so potent, a piece the size of my pinkie fingernail spiced up a whole pot of chili; other times, I've cut a whole one into scrambled eggs that remained, nonetheless, quite edible. I grew some in my backyard two years ago and none approached the incendiary levels of others I've bought at markets. All chiles, even of the same species, vary a in their intensity.

At Kama Indian Bistro, 8 W. Burlington in La Grange, I first sampled ghost pepper sauce over lamb. The first tentative taste was similar to the experience of stubbing a toe: It took a few nanoseconds for the sensation to register. After one forkful of ghost pepper sauce over lamb, my tongue felt as though it was being gently rubbed with fine-grain sandpaper: slight irritation but no pain. Seconds later, I felt a quick burn on the palate and a not-unpleasant wave of warmth that caused my cheeks to flush and perspiration to flow for about 90 minutes.

Heat of this intensity can take you to another place, and it can be enjoyable, if you like that kind of think.

If you do purchase Ghost Peppers from Genesis Growers, exercise extreme care. Wear rubber gloves when cutting the pepper, and make sure that all cutting surfaces are carefully cleaned when you're done. And by all means, start small: put a little bit in something and give it a taste. I find that a dime-sized chunck is a good start for a three-egg omelet, but your mileage may vary.



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