Peppers have come a long way ever since Columbus and the Portuguese discovered their existence while searching for the New World and spreading its hot and spicy goodness all over the world. Thanks to the Mayan, Aztecs, and Egyptians, numerous varieties of the Capsicum species have suddenly started popping up like mushrooms everywhere throughout the years with its earliest recorded domestication. And thanks to years of breeding and the tireless pursuit of producing the hottest peppers, countless generations have finally produced the famous and well-loved Carolina Reaper.
The Breeding Background
The Father of Carolina Reapers
Let me first put credit where credit is due to the mastermind behind its very existence before we dive into how Carolina Reapers came about. More famously known as Smokin’ Ed in the pepper community, Ed Currie is the father and creator of the first Carolina Reaper peppers. Funny enough, this man started his adventure into the world of chilli peppers for the most uncanny of reasons.
During his college years at the University of Michigan, Currie started searching for a health elixir to keep him in top shape while going crazy over non-stop parties. And that’s when he discovered the incredible health benefits of eating hot peppers and how it creates a very “high” feeling as if you are in cloud nine, which kicks in after consumption. This crazy truth behind hot peppers was what propelled Currie to an endless pursuit of creating heat-numbing chilis to this day.
Thanks to his thirst for all things hot and spicy, Currie eventually developed the Carolina Reaper, which became one of the hottest peppers ever and is also a worldwide sensation. Fast forward to now; Smokin’ Ed continues to breed even hotter peppers after decades of being in the business while managing his self-founded PuckreButt Pepper Company based in South Carolina.
Carolina Reaper Parentage
So named as it was birthed in Fort Mill, South Carolina, the Carolina Reaper is a true southern classic. It’s famed heat and flavour has taken over the world ever since it was first introduced to the international scene. And nowadays, it is being produced in temperate countries and tropical regions such as several countries in Asia.
Just like recent newcomers in the hot pepper industry, the Carolina Reaper descended from two hot pepper superstars who are still well-loved to this day. They are none other than the Ghost Pepper and the Habanero. Also known as Bhut Jolokia, the legendary Ghost Pepper originally came from India’s mountains and reigned as the hottest pepper in the world before Butch T Scorpion overtook it in 2011. Meanwhile, Habanero is considered one of the original hot peppers coming from Amazon’s wilds. And the oldest evidence proving its existence dated to about 6500 BC.
Although habaneros are considered as mild hot peppers while Ghost Peppers are about three to four times hotter than it, these two combined produced one mean hot baby. However, just like with any bred plants, it took about seven generations before arriving on the Carolina Reaper we know today.
The Looks, Heat Level and Flavor
Carolina Reapers are relatively a smaller hot pepper variety. The pods only grow up to about 3 inches long and 2 inches in width. It initially has a deep green skin before turning into a very vibrant red color once fully ripe. Furthermore, its skin is very gnarly, with distinct lobes around the middle area and a short tail at the tip resembling that of a Scorpion pepper variety. Hence, it is often mistaken to have descended from Trinidad Scorpion peppers because of this tail feature.
There is still some instability when it comes to this pepper breed due to the varying pod features of some Carolina Reaper fruits. You see, although the physical characteristics described above are what you would usually see in this pepper, there are instances when the resulting pod resembles more like its parental Ghost Pepper. Nevertheless, a single bite from this bad boy’s pod can knock anyone out thanks to its whopping 1,400,000 to 2,200,000 SHU.
This super hot pepper packs a heat level that is more than twice that of a Ghost Pepper and 880 times hotter than the typical jalapeno. So expect a searing heat from your mouth down to your stomach that transcends pain when you give this pepper a taste. But, flavor-wise, Carolina Reapers are relatively on the sweet side. You will initially get a hint of a fruity sweet taste right before the fire kicks in. And these exciting melding of flavors is the reason why a lot of people often love turning these peppers into hot sauces or chilli oils rather than eating them fresh.
The Colorful Varieties Today
As of today, there are three Carolina Reaper varieties in existence that are being produced worldwide. And each boasts a stunning shade that screams H-O-T from a mile away.
RED CAROLINA REAPER
Of course, the first one on the list is the trio’s OG, the Red Carolina Reaper. Its pods give you that distinct bright red-orange to deep red color that screams extreme heat. And a single pod is more than enough to give an excellent flaming kick to a dozen dishes. Plus, growing them from seeds is relatively easy as long as you provide them with the right temperature range for growth.
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YELLOW CAROLINA REAPER
So named because of its bright summer yellow skin, the Yellow Carolina Reaper has also become a hot pepper favorite. In fact, enthusiast and growers are going crazy over this. It sports the same characteristic features as the original red variety except for its colour of course, which it got from its parent Yellow Habanero. Furthermore, the Yellow Carolina Reaper gives more of a citrusy flavor than the typical sweet taste and is considered a scarce variety.
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CHOCOLATE CAROLINA REAPER
Don’t be surprised if you find yourself a different color than what you initially ordered. That’s because the Chocolate Carolina Reaper is relatively a newcomer and is still considered very unstable. This variety has a distinct dark brown, almost reddish-brown pod skin. It has more of an earthy and smoky flavor which is quite a contrast to the rest of the trio variety. However, breeders and growers say that you can still get a hint of that fruity flavor. A scrumptious taste that Red Carolina Reapers are known for.
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