Jim Duffy, a grower of the rarest and hottest chiles and owner of Refining Fire Chiles, grew the hottest chiles on record in 2010.
Scott: So why no official record with the Trinidad Scorpion?
Jim: It’s a long story and time to tell it. After sending one of my Trinidad Scorpion Peppers to Dave DeWitt in New Mexico in 2009, the journey began. Dave DeWitt is called “Pope of Peppers” and is the author of many chile pepper books. Dave gave the pepper to his long time friend Marlin Bensinger, a chemical engineer and one of the foremost experts on capsaicin science. Marlin tested it and it came in higher than the Bhut Jolokia.
So in 2010 I grew some Trinidad Scorpion and Trinidad 7 Pot plants for Marlin to put into the fields in New Mexico.
Marlin drove out to Lakeside, California just east of San Diego to meet me and see my new chile garden project. I gave Marlin the plants to take back to New Mexico and also agreed to send peppers from my plants as well. From September through November Marlin tested the Scorpions from my plants and also a few plants Marlin acquired from a grower in New Jersey. Marlin also tested other Trinidad chiles and found a total of four varieties that came in higher than the Bhut Jolokia! When satisfied that the Trinidad Scorpion came in with the highest heat rating, we then sent samples to an independent lab in Texas. Analytical Food Labs in Texas is the top in its field in pungency testing for the food and spice industry. Our results from Texas confirmed our findings so we had Dave DeWitt’s people file for Guinness World Record.
Scott: What about the Naga Viper, which was recently declared the World’s Hottest Chili Pepper by Guinness?
Jim: Well, there never was any third party testing for the Naga Viper or the Infinity Chile before it. Therefore the Chile Pepper Institute and other major growers won’t recognize it. Besides any student of botany or horticulture knows you cannot create a new plant variety in a year or two. So therefore it cannot exist! I mean can I cross a great dane with a poodle and then later breed the puppies and have a stable dog breed? Of course not! So it cannot happen with plants either in a short time and the growers of the Infinity and Naga Viper claim they did that. In fact the Naga Viper is supposed to be a three-way cross. Which is impossible.
Scott: So why does Guinness recognize it?
Jim: Well I really don’t know. Guinness asked us for variety authentication by a horticulturist and growing records. If we had to prove it why didn’t others? You must understand Guinness is independent and nothing but a record keeper and record publisher. They are not a scientific organization. They can make their own rules and set their own criteria and change it anytime they want. We had third party verification by one of the world’s top food labs. The English growers sent their samples in to a college, not a qualified food lab or agricultural lab like New Mexico State. Just an average college. The purpose of third party verification is to make sure peppers are not tampered with. Anyone can add chemical extract to a pepper and only a top lab would detect that. I’m not saying that happened in this instance, but without third party testing no pepper record has credibility. It is also important to note that when the Chile Pepper Institute asked for seeds of the Naga Viper from Gerald Fowler it was declined.
Scott: So what now, Jim?
Jim: Well, as far as I am concerned the Trinidad Scorpion grown in Lakeside, California and Las Cruces, New Mexico is the new champ at 1,191,595 Scoville Units. Multiple tests and two top labs don’t lie. Guinness may not recognize us but science does and this year we will have Dr. Bosland and the Chile Pepper Institute oversee our work on the Scorpion and other Trinidad varieties. If the British want to prove us wrong send in seeds and peppers to us for testing. For now the top U.S. sauce makers know what we have and respect us for what we have done.
Scott: Will you ever grow the Naga Viper?
Jim: No I won’t, because as seed and plant seller I would not want a mutt. I am a purist and want to make sure my customers get something that is stable and if they want to save their own seeds next season to grow again I want them to have a stable variety.
Scott: Any parting thoughts?
Jim: Currently two sauce makers are releasing new sauces with the name New Mexico Scorpion. Just to make a point here it is not a new variety. Just like the names “Hawaiian Pineapples” or “Idaho Potatos” we call ours “New Mexico Scorpions” grown in New Mexico. Chiles grow well in New Mexico and we believe the environment and climate of New Mexico will produce a hotter and better tasting Scorpion.
After all that’s why so many chiles are grown in New Mexico. I currently have thousands of my seeds from my San Diego plants germinating now for a larger field I will grow with Marlin in New Mexico for 2011 season. We still want to do more testing on flavor, productivity and heat levels. Hopefully with Dr. Paul Bosland’s assistance we will learn more about these super-hot varieties then we ever knew before. The journey is just beginning.
For the largest array of hot chile photos in the world go visit Jim’s site at www.superhotchiles.com.
In addition to growing and chile peppers, Jim strongly supports Youth Venture Teen Centers, a community-based, Christ-centered, guidance program open to all youth between the 6th and 12th grade based in Southern California. You can learn more about them by watching this short video: