Peppers are Ed Currie’s life. The founder of Puckerbutt Pepper Company is the mad genius behind the Carolina Reaper—the world’s hottest pepper. The pepper is so hot that when workers seed it, they wear two layers of gloves because the oils in the pepper eat through the latex.
Currie got his love of gardening from his mother, who taught him to breed irises and lilies. Currie took what he learned and took it to the “dope” level. “I started trying to crossbreed pot when I was younger and it was dangerous,” says Currie with a laugh. Curry turned his attention to peppers, trying to get the hottest pepper he could. He has over 500 different pepper plants now.
Currie crossbreeds the pepper plants by gathering the pollen of one plant with a paintbrush which he then uses to deliver the same pollen to another plant. In the case of the Carolina Reaper, the plants were a pepper he got from a doctor in Pakistan and a pepper from the island of St. Vincent, which was given to Currie as a gift from a coworker.
Heat from a pepper is measured in Scoville Heat Units. Jalapenos run around 3,000 to 5,000 units, while Thai chilis come in around 20,000. A habanero will average 100,000. Ghost peppers jump up to 600,000. Where does the Carolina Reaper fall on the scale? The reaper has an average peak heat of 2.5 million units. That’s the equivalent of 10 habaneros, 60 serranos, or 600 jalapenos.
“When I first ate the reaper it knocked me to my knees,” says Currie. But the experience was exactly what Currie was looking for. “I was like three years clean. I hadn’t felt that feeling in a long time. I knew that was hot. You get this euphoric feeling and that’s your body trying to overtake the pain that the chemical reaction is giving and eventually the endorphin rush overtakes the pain. And when you get into the higher pain you get more pleasure. So it’s just chasing the dragon.”
Currie isn’t done chasing the hottest pepper. His passion drives him forward. “I get out of bed at 3:30 every morning just to go and play with peppers,” says Currie. “And I stay in there all day long, on fire eating them all day long. This is my happy place.”