Care Of Ghost Chili Peppers: How To Grow Ghost Pepper Plants
Some like it hot, and some like it hotter. Chili pepper growers that enjoy a bit of heat will certainly get what they ask for when growing ghost peppers. Keep reading to learn more about these HOT pepper plants.
About Ghost Pepper Plants
Ghost pepper plants, otherwise known as Bhut Jolokia, are a type of hot pepper plant grown in India. I used to think that habanero peppers were spicy at a Scoville heat unit measure of 250,000 units, but now that I know of the ghost pepper and its Scoville rating of 1,001,304 units, I shudder to think what it might do to my gastric system. In fact, the fruit from a ghost chili pepper variety called Trinidad Moruga Scorpion has been recorded as the world’s hottest pepper in the Guinness Book of World Records.
The name “ghost” pepper came about due to a mistranslation. Westerners thought the Bhut Jolokia was pronounced “Bhot,” which is translated as “Ghost.”
Uses of Growing Ghost Peppers
In India, ghost peppers are used as a medicine for stomach ailments and eaten to cool the body by inducing perspiration during the hot summer months. Really! Ghost pepper plants are also spread on fences to repel elephants– and I suppose any other creature that is likely to attempt a crossing.
More recently, another use has been discovered for growing ghost peppers. In 2009, scientists in India suggested the peppers could be utilized as weapons, in hand grenades or as a pepper spray, with a resulting temporary paralysis but no permanent damage to terrorists or invaders. Ghost pepper plants are quite possibly the next environmentally friendly, non-lethal weapon.
How to Grow Ghost Peppers
So if one were interested in growing ghost peppers for either the novelty of doing so or because one would actually want to ingest these flaming fruits, the question is, “How to grow ghost peppers?”
Growing ghost peppers is difficult compared to other hot peppers due to their requirements for a certain amount of humidity and heat, which is in direct relation to their heat index. In order to best grow these peppers, your climate should most closely match that of their native India, which has five months of intensely high humidity and temperatures.
If your growing season is short, the ghost pepper plants can be moved indoors in the evening, however, these plants are sensitive to shifts in their environments and a lot of moving around may damage the plants irreparably.
The surest way of growing ghost peppers is indoors or in a greenhouse where temperatures can be maintained at the 75 degrees F. (24 C.). Seeds for ghost peppers take around 35 days to germinate in very warm soil between 80 and 90 degrees F. (27-32 C.), and the soil must be kept moist consistently. Soak the seeds in hydrogen peroxide for a minute to increase germination success and use full sun fluorescent light bulbs to maintain temperature and humidity.
Care of Ghost Chili Peppers
Sensitive to over fertilization, changes in temperature, and other environmental stressors, ghost pepper plants must have a growing season of longer than three months in temperatures of above 70 degrees F. (21 C.) in order to be grown outside.
If growing ghost peppers in containers, use a well-draining potting medium. Peppers growing in the garden may need to have organic matter added to the soil, especially if the soil is sandy.
Fertilize the newly planted ghost pepper plants and then two or three more times during the growing season. Alternatively, use a controlled release fertilizer to feed the plants during the whole growing season.
Lastly, in the care of ghost chili peppers, maintain a regular watering regime to avoid shocking the delicate peppers.
Harvesting Ghost Peppers
To be on the safe side when harvesting ghost peppers, you might want to wear gloves to prevent any burns from the peppers. Harvest when the fruit is firm and brilliantly colored.
If you are seriously tempted to eat ghost peppers, again, be sure to wear disposable gloves when preparing and only take a tiny bite at first to test your ability to handle the hottest pepper in the world.
Ghost Pepper Scoville
The ghost pepper has the distinction of being the first chile to register over 1,000,000 Scoville Heat Units (SHU).
Hence, the ghost chili is known as one of the hottest peppers in the world.
For comparison, a bell pepper has 0 SHU, and the habanero pepper Scoville is 350,000 SHU.
The ghost pepper scale ranks at 1,041,427 Scoville units. So when comparing the ghost pepper vs habanero, the ghost is three times hotter.
On the other side, there’s the Carolina Reaper. Ghost peppers can be half the heat of a Reaper. The Carolina Reaper Scoville is 2,200,000 at the top end.
Some other super hot peppers that rank over a 1 million Scovilles include the Infinity chili (1,250,000 SHU), Trinidad Scorpion “Butch T” (1,463,700 SHU) and Chocolate Bhutlah (
(By the way, you can see how the Carolina Reaper vs Ghost Pepper compare. Want more? Check out the Ghost Pepper Scoville Scale chart on the hottest peppers in the world page.)
Hot ‘n healthy
So, I’ve got you thinking about growing them yourself? Let me add a little more spice to this plant. Peppers are very healthy. When ripe (and thus red) they contain more vitamin C then citrus fruits, massive amounts of vitamin E and a lot of Carotene. The stuff that makes ghost pepper hot is called capsaicin: the hotter the pepper, the more capsaicin.
This phytochemical exists, most likely, to deter animals from eating peppers. It is also the active component of pepper sprays used for self-defense. Yet for humans it offers a myriad of health benefits. If you don’t rub it in your eye, that is.
A study published in Cancer Research found that capsaicin caused cancer cells to commit suicide. The substance caused almost 80% of prostate cancer cells to die in mice and prostate tumors treated with capsaicin were about one-fifth the size of those in untreated mice.
Capsaicin is also known as a painkiller. Studies have found that capsaicin both relieves and prevents cluster headaches, migraine headaches and sinus headaches. Capsaicin also has potent antibacterial properties that fight and prevent sinus infections, or sinusitis. As it is so hot, it also helps to stimulate secretions that help clear mucus from your nose, thereby relieving nasal congestion. This phytochemical may also help relieve sinus related allergy symptoms.
Growing Ghost Peppers
Ghost peppers are one of the world's hottest chilis. Despite their unique fiery heat, they are still common pepper plants. These chilis grow like any other chili pepper. They prefer the tropical warmth and relatively humid conditions. Take extra care to protect your garden from unsuspecting wanderers when growing ghost peppers.
Always wear gloves when working with peppers this hot. The Scoville rating for a ghost pepper is 1,001,304 units. For perspective:
- Habanero – 250,000 Scoville Unites
- Jalapeno – 6000 Scolville Units
- Anaheim – 1000 Scolville Units
While capsicum has not been shown to cause any actual tissue damage, it is extremely painful. Pets and children should be kept well away from growing ghost peppers. These fruits are so spicy that you may not even want to process them inside.
If you are chopping them, do it outside with fresh air. Wear gloves and goggles and avoid touching your eyes, nose, mouth, or skin after handling ghost peppers.
How To Plant
Plant ghost peppers 8-12 weeks before the last frost in your region. In USDA zones 11 and above peppers can be treated as perennial plants. In these tropical regions plant seed any time of the year.
Use a high-quality well-draining potting soil for starting pepper seeds. Seed blocks or four-inch garden pots work equally well. Keep the soil damp but do not over-water especially when seedlings are young and prone to damping off.
Upon sprouting move seedlings under fluorescent lights or into a sunny window. Extra light ensures that the plant will not elongate out and require more staking or caging.
Seedlings can be transplanted outside two weeks after the last frost date. Only put them out if soil temperatures are holding above 65°F (18°C). They must be acclimated when moving from an indoor space to an outdoor space.
Acclimate plants by bringing them out into some dappled light for one half-hour the first day. Gradually increase the time they spend outside over the course of one to two weeks. Expose them to increasing amounts of wind, direct sunlight, and temperature shifts between day and night time.
They are ready to transplant when they can be outdoors for a full 24-hour day and not show any signs of stress.
How To Feed And Water
Stick to a watering schedule that delivers consistent moisture. Do not overwater and allow the planting bed to become muddy. Avoid spraying the foliage and try to water down by the base of the plant as much as possible.
Mix one to three inches of compost into the outdoor planting bed. This will ensure that plants get a boost of nutrients while adjusting to their new home. Feed with liquid organic fertilizer when plants start to set fruit.
Harvest ghost peppers when the fruit is firm and brightly colored. Always wear safety gear.
How to Grow Ghost Pepper Plants From Seed
Ghost pepper seeds take about 35 days to germinate in moist, warm soil kept between 80 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Before planting, soak the seeds in hydrogen peroxide for one minute to increase germination success.
Due to the demands for heat and moisture to germinate, ghost pepper seeds are most easily started indoors and grow readily in greenhouse conditions. Use full-sun fluorescent grow lights to maintain temperature and humidity when started indoors.