The hottest chili peppers in the world are now being grown in the Guadalhorce Valley

2016-05-25 07:00:00

They come in different strengths, shapes and colours, including white. Some people love them, others consider them a form of torture, but the consumption of chili peppers is increasing by an estimated 2.5 per cent every year. Their great secret lies in the capsaicin, the compound to which our bodies respond. “That is what makes us produce endorphins, the pleasure hormone,” says Pedro Gallardo, who grows some of the hottest chilis in the world in the Guadalhorce Valley. “Hot chilis are in fashion. Sales are booming, especially in the US and UK, China and Italy, which are the world’s biggest consumers,” he says.
Last year Pedro and his partners rented some land in Cártama to grow 39 different varieties of chili from all over the world, but mainly from South America and Mexico. They wanted to see how they would adapt to the soil and the climate.
Following those experiments, these young entrepreneurs created the Mucho Macho brand, to sell fresh and processed chili peppers. They have selected 20 varieties, which are being cultivated for the first time this year. The company has set itself a production target of about 40 tonnes in 2016. “We are planning to sell the chilis fresh, dried and ground. We are also going to make spicy olive oils, to be sold in Spain and abroad. We want to sell the peppers in different formats, under the Mucho Macho brand,” explains Pedro.
Mucho Macho is an adventurous project. The idea is to use only ecologically sustainable and organic techniques. “We only use nutrients and treatments which are authorised for biological agriculture. We have started the process to have our land classified as ecological and we treat the soil with beneficial fungal spores and bacteria as well as organic material which regenerates the ground and prevents the proliferation of fungi,” says Pedro.
Among the varieties they have chosen to grow this year is the notorious ‘Carolina Reaper’, which currently holds the Guinness Record for being the hottest chili in the world, with over 2,200,000 Scoville units (SHU).
Capsaicin is measured on the Scoville scale, as a way of indicating the strength of the chilis. It uses heat units: the number of times that an example of dried chili needs to be diluted by its own weight in water with sugar before it loses its heat. Nowadays laser chromatographs are used to measure the strength.
Another of the ‘super-chilis’ they are planning to grow is the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion, which has 1,463,700 SHU, and the Bhut Jolokia, with more than 800,000 SHU. The planting period is from April to May and production starts in the second half of June.
To give an idea of how hot this is, bear in mind that a Padrón pepper measures 2,500 on the Scoville scale, while a Habanero chili can reach as much as 350,000. “It looks as if the Guinness Record will soon be held by the Chocolate Bhutlah. We are going to see if we can grow that type too,” says Pedro Gallardo. There are profits to be made from hot peppers: for example, a kilo of Carolina Reaper chilis can cost 180 euros.
“In this sector it is quite normal for a new, even hotter variety to appear every two or three years. It is almost like a competition between producers,” says Pedro, who has learned from experience to wear gloves when handling chili peppers, after accidentally touching his eyes and suffering severe pain in the past.source surinenglish