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Ghost Pepper – All You Need to Know | Instacart Guide to Fresh Produce

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Last Updated: Jun 17, 2021

What is a ghost pepper?

When looking to add spice and heat to a recipe, a ghost pepper will certainly do the trick.

The ghost pepper is also commonly called Bhut Jolokia. It originated in India and went by less common names like Bih Jolokia, Nagahari, Raja Mircha, Raja chili, or Borbih Jolokia. The word “Bhut” comes from the Bhutias people of India. Meaning “ghost,” the word was used because the heat of the vegetable sneaks up on whoever is eating it.

Ghost peppers are part of the Capsicum Chinense family, like the habanero, Scotch bonnet, and Red Savina peppers.

When you’re cooking, use this spicy pepper in a wide variety of recipes. Make your own hot sauces or chili oil, create curry dishes, whip up salsa, make ghost pepper pasta or spicy salads (like Giardiniera), and prepare sweet and spicy bacon.

How hot is a ghost pepper?

The short answer is, “Very, very hot!” One of the hottest peppers in the fresh produce section, the ghost pepper scores a whopping million on the Scoville Heat Unit (SHU) scale and has been named one of the 10 hottest peppers in existence today.  It is 417% hotter than a jalapeno pepper.

The Scoville rating system measures the spiciness (or heat) of chili peppers. It’s based on the concentration of capsaicinoids within a food. Capsaicin stimulates nerve endings, can increase metabolism, and causes the body to feel hotter. People who love spicy foods adore the extra “kick” that a ghost pepper adds to a dish.

Because of its heat, preparing ghost peppers for cooking is a process that requires care and skill. Over time, the heat increases, so people must be sure to use it sparingly. Experts advise that home chefs start with simple recipes like sauces and then scale up to get more comfortable working with these hot gems.

Just how potent are these spicy veggies? Ghost peppers have even been used in the manufacturing of pepper spray. The line between deliciousness and danger is a fine one, so use care in preparation.

Where did ghost pepper originate from?

Ghost peppers have their roots in northeastern regions of India—specifically the Nagaland and Assam regions and parts of Bangladesh.

But they weren’t discovered by Western civilizations until the turn of the century. Hot pepper fans today are passionate about their peppers and even have competitions for ghost pepper consumption. Although the ghost pepper was named the hottest pepper in 2007, it was unseated by the Carolina Reaper and several other varieties.

What are the benefits of eating ghost pepper?

Even the biggest hot pepper fans must exercise some care when eating ghost peppers. But these spicy vegetables have some great health benefits.

They are low fat, low calorie, and contain a healthy amount of vitamin C. But the capsaicin they contain seems to be the greatest source of health benefits.

Capsaicin also contains antioxidants called phytochemicals. They lower free radicals in the body, and that can prevent illnesses. People who suffer from sinus infections will find that the heat clears their nasal passages. Some studies show that ghost peppers can provide migraine and headache relief and even ease arthritis symptoms.

Although counter-intuitive, capsaicin may ease gastrointestinal distress. Duke researchers discovered a nerve cell receptor in the intestines that is affected by capsaicinoids. Abdominal pain, discomfort, and diarrhea can all be eased by ghost peppers. The chemical also kills the bacteria that cause stomach ulcers.

Like all hot peppers that contain capsaicin, ghost peppers will speed up a person’s metabolism, which may contribute to weight loss.

How is ghost pepper grown?

Because of their Indian origins, ghost peppers are best grown in climates with high heat and humidity. They are planted about 2ft apart in warm soil, with full sun. The seeds take about 35 days to germinate and 100 days to mature from the time they are planted. The plants themselves grow from 2–4ft tall.

In peak growing season and conditions, as many as 200 individual ghost peppers can be harvested from just 1 plant.

Harvesting must be done with care because of the heat of the vegetable. Farmers often wear goggles and gloves to pick ghost peppers.

When are ghost peppers in season?

Ghost peppers are best grown in summer or in highly controlled temperatures in greenhouses. When the peppers turn from green to red or another bright color, they are ready to be harvested.

Like all fresh produce, ghost peppers can be found year-round at the right sources. Produce delivery (especially those sources that offer same-day delivery/pick-up) is still one of the best ways to stock your vegetable and spice array.

How to shop for ghost peppers

Ghost peppers come in a variety of colors. Red is the most common variety, but shoppers may find the rare orange, yellow, and chocolate types on occasion. A ripe ghost pepper will measure about 2.5 or 3in and weigh about a third of an ounce.

Shop via Instacart when you want to try a ghost pepper. Add it to your cart, and then use the “Instructions” option to give specific preferences or directions on choosing the best products. Shop for ghost peppers here. 

How to store ghost peppers

Handle with care. Lightly brush off any dirt (wearing gloves) and store them in plastic bags in the refrigerator. They will freeze well if they aren’t used immediately. But they will lose some crispness when thawed.

They can be expected to last between 2 and 3 weeks in the crisper draw of a refrigerator. Another way to preserve them for future use is to brine them.

How to tell if a ghost pepper is bad

As with many vegetables, soft or dark spots are a sign that a ghost pepper is bad. When its skin begins to shrivel, the pepper is no longer fresh. That wrinkling is a sign that the ghost pepper is losing moisture. As ghost peppers age, they start to lose their kick, making them more palatable for use in dishes.

What can I substitute for ghost pepper?

Every hot pepper has a distinctive taste. Habanero peppers are the most common substitutes for ghost peppers. But a wide array of hot peppers exist today.

If you like spicy foods and recipes, experiment with different tastes and heat profiles with other chili peppers.

Where can I find ghost peppers near me?

Ordering via Instacart is the best and fastest way to get these hot and versatile vegetables delivered to your kitchen. In addition to fresh produce, we can select and deliver the other ingredients you need to make sauces, salads, curries, and a wide range of hot dishes. Shop ghost peppers now.

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