Rock Hill Man May Have Grown World's Hottest
12:00 pm
Thu November 10, 2011

Rock Hill Man May Have Grown World's Hottest Pepper

The hottest pepper in the world?

In Rock Hill, one man is on a quest to grow the world's hottest pepper. And he may have achieved that goal. He's still waiting to hear back from Guinness World Records on whether or not his pepper is hotter than the Trinidad Scorpion "Butch T" from Australia, currently the hottest certified in the world. But this attempt at an even hotter pepper isn't about bragging rights. It's one man's hope to change the world. WFAE's Marshall Terry reports.

Watch video of Marshall Terry eating one of the peppers.

Here's how Ed Currie knew he was getting somewhere with his potentially record-breaking hot pepper:

"The first time we tried it, out of the six of usfour puked. So I knew I was on the right path, you know," Currie says.

An unscientific way of going about things, but one quick look around Currie's backyard and you see just how serious he is about peppers.

The third of an acre space is jam packed with more than 1,400 plants sitting on tablesglowing orange and red peppers dangling from them. Black trays with pepper plants just beginning to sprout litter the ground.

Ed Currie with some of his pepper plants.

Currie tests different combinations of food, water, and mineral intake to see which one creates the hottest pepper. And he thinks he's found it. Right now he calls the pepper HP22B. Guinness World Records officials are looking at the pepper to see if it is indeed the world's hottest.

Currie works as a banker by day, but peppers are always on his mind. He even has security installed in the backyard.

"We've got all sorts of motion stuff. We've got dogs. We've got everything," Currie says.

Currie's interest in peppers began more than two decades ago. But it was more than just a love of hot food that prompted him into growing his own.

"My family dies from cancer a lot," Currie says. "So I've been researching how not to die."

Currie lost his mother, grandparents, and many aunts and uncles to cancer.

At least two studies have shown that the capsaicin in hot peppers, the part that gives them their heat, may actually kill some cancer cells.

"I think the jury's still out on that a little bit," says Winthrop University Chemistry Professor, Dr. Cliff Calloway. He says many more tests still need to be done on the link between capsaicin and cancer.

But Calloway says Currie may be on to something trying to develop high-level capsaicin peppers for cancer research.

"The unique thing about Ed's peppers[is that] as a generator of capsaicin they are much more efficient than other peppers," Calloway says.

More capsaicin means more cancer-killing potential. Dr. Calloway has been helping Currie test the capsaicin in his peppers for a few years, and says he thinks Currie may indeed have the world's hottest.

A pepper's heat is measured in Scoville units. The one Ed has to beat, the Trinidad Scorpion "Butch T" from Australia, measures 1.4 million Scoville. Dr. Calloway says Ed's Guinness pepper, on average, measures 1.5 million Scoville. For comparison, a regular jalapeno is somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,500-5,000 Scoville.

So, what happens when you eat such a hot pepper?

"Your heart will race, you'll sweat," Currie says. "You might shake, you might throw up. But once it gets into your blood stream and gets into your brain the capsaicin releases the same endorphins that narcotics do. So you get a euphoric feeling."

After trying one of the peppers, WFAE's Marshall Terry is comforted by a Daschund named Duke. Watch a video of Marshall as he samples the pepper.

Currie also wants his peppers to support him financially. He's formed the Pucker Butt Pepper Company. The name is a description of what happens to you if you eat one of his peppers.

The company sells sauces with names like "Purgatory," "Voodoo Prince Death Mamba," and "I Dare You Stupid." That last one is made with the same pepper that Guinness is reviewing. Right now Pucker Butt is mainly an online business, but Currie hopes to have his products in the stores by the holidays.

Between working days at the bank and spending evenings on his peppers, Currie doesn't sleep much and say sometimes he goes several days with no sleep at all. You can see it in his face. But his lack of sleep doesn't seem to dampen his enthusiasm for what he's doing.

"After God, and then my wife - family, friends, peppers," Currie says.

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