Tue, Sep 21, 2010 - Page 6 News List

An out-of-body experience with the hottest chilli

By Patrick Barkham  /  THE GUARDIAN , ENGLAND

The infinity chilli is the hottest in the world and is grown in Grantham, England. So what does it actually taste like?

“There’s none of this ‘I’m going to bite the end off.’ If you’re going to do it, you’re going to eat a whole one,” said Nick “Woody” Woods, chilli obsessive and proud father of the infinity chilli, probably the hottest chilli in the world.

Woody is currently harvesting this happy accident from his tiny polytunnel in the garden of his family home in Grantham.

Warwick University calculates his chilli hits 1,176,182 on the Scoville Scale. This is hotter than the bhut jolokia chilli which the Indian army says could be deployed in anti-riot smoke grenades. Tabasco sauce is just 5,000 — and I have to eat a whole one. Raw.

Woody began growing chillies eight years ago. He and his wife, Zoe, made sauces and sold them at farmers’ markets. Their Fire Foods business boomed and two-and-a-half years ago Woody quit his job as a security guard to devote his life to chillies.

Making everything in two cauldrons on their kitchen stove, they tour food festivals with an array of sauces, including peanut butter and Firemite. While waiting to hear if he’s got a Guinness World Record chilli, Woody is developing chilli beer and extra-hot prawn crackers (Firecrackers, naturally).

Now, delightedly, he picks an infinity chilli the size of a large strawberry. Its bright red ridges glisten menacingly.

I hold the devilish thing by the stem and pop it into my mouth. I chew, fast. For 10 seconds, I taste a pleasant fruity aroma. Then it starts burning. Tears stream from my eyes.

I love spicy food: vindaloo, no problem, and I can just about eat the very hottest phall, but nothing has prepared me for this. The fire hits my throat and then goes into my ears. My ears! They ache terribly. My legs wobble. Punch-drunk, I slump on a garden chair.

Woody brings milk. It dulls the pain in my mouth, but the second I swallow it, the agony returns.

“It’s like passing your hand over a flame, isn’t it?” nods Woody. “Like an out-of-body experience.”

After five minutes, the heat subsides to phall level. The ear agony goes. Now I can feel it in my stomach. But I feel good too: high and dizzy, as if drunk. Two hours later, I am burping hot chilli and feeling exceedingly odd.

Woody is impressed by my recovery, but what happens next?

“Let’s be honest here. It’s got to come out again,” he says. “But it’s not going to be as bad as when it went in.”

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