World's hottest pepper is grown in South Carolina

By Jeffrey Collins

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Dec. 26 2013 12:20 p.m. MST

The peppers started as a hobby, grown in his Rock Hill backyard. The business now spreads across a number of backyards and a couple dozen acres in Chester County. As his business grew, Currie kept his job at a bank because he promised his wife, whom he wooed a decade ago by making her a fresh batch of salsa, he wouldn't leave the lucrative position until they were out of debt. She released him from that vow in February.

Currie has about a dozen employees. Even with the publicity of the world record, he still gets nervous about making payroll. He said the attention has helped him move closer to the goal of making PuckerButt self-sustaining.

Currie's peppers aren't just about heat. He aims for sweetness, too. He makes sauces and mustards with names like "Voodoo Prince Death Mamba," ''Edible Lava" and "I Dare You Stupit" with a goal to enhance the flavor of food.

And the hot pepper market is expanding. In less than five years, the amount of hot peppers eaten by Americans has increased 8 percent, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics.

Currie's world record has created quite a stir in the world of chiliheads, said Ted Barrus, a blogger from Astoria, Ore., who has developed a following among hot pepper fans by videotaping himself eating the hottest peppers in the world and posting the videos on YouTube under the name Ted The Fire Breathing Idiot.

Barrus said Currie's world record is just the latest event in a series of pepper growers to top one another with hotter and hotter peppers.

"That's the biggest bragging rights there are. It is very, very competitive," he said.

The reason people love super-hot peppers isn't much different than any other thrill seekers. Barrus talks lovingly about trying the Carolina Reaper, even though the peppers usually send him into spasms of hiccups and vomiting.

"You only live once. This is safer than jumping out of an airplane," he said.

Barrus said Currie's news has other growers sending him peppers that seem hotter than the Carolina Reaper on his tongue, although they will await scientific testing.

That's fine with Currie. He knew the record would be challenged quickly and has sent off what he thinks are even hotter batches to the students at Winthrop University to test.

"Nobody is going to grow hotter peppers than Ed Currie," he said.

Follow Jeffrey Collins on Twitter at http://twitter.com/JSCollinsAP

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