Ghost chiles, like several "hot" chile varieties, disguise their heat inconspicuously in a small pod. The chile pod is grooved, slightly curved and comes to a point. They are harvested and sold in their orange to red stage of maturity when their heat levels are at their peak. The chiles size ranges in length of 2-3 inches and about 1/2 inch wide. The skin is smooth, waxy, glossy and firm. Its flesh bears less than edible seeds (one seed can contain levels of heat that can produce sustained intense pain sensations in the mouth for up to 30 minutes). The pod's membrane also contains high levels of heat, which extinguishes the assumption that removing the seeds removes the heat. Cooking Ghost chiles will not reduce the pepper's vicious bite.
Fresh Red Ghost chile peppers make sporadic appearances throughout the year. They are greenhouse grown in Holland and field grown in Mexico. They also may appear at farmers markets when in-season.
Red Ghost chile peppers, also known as Bhut Jolokia, Bih Jolokia, Naga Jolokia, Naga Morich and Raja Mirchi are a hybrid of Capsicum chinense and Capsicum frutescens. Its names vary depending upon what region they are grown in. In 2007 they ranked for some time as the hottest chile in the world according to the Guinness Book of World Records. Their Scoville rating at more than 1 million is 900 times hotter than the famous Tabasco brand hot sauce.
The Ghost chile's heat level should never be underestimated as even the smallest amount can render a dish inedible. It is best used very sparingly in addition to several other ingredients in the preparation of sauces or as a seasoning. Paired with meats and creamy sauces, the chile can be slightly tamed and utilized as a spice versus simply a chile. As its global presence is limited, recipes outside of Indian cuisine do not reflect the use of the Ghost chile. Consider using the Ghost chile where you would use a habanero chile. Ghost chiles can be pickled, used in salsas, relishes, barbecue sauces, added to soups and used in meat and seafood rubs and marinades. Citrus can cut the heat of the chile and should be considered almost an absolute when contributing ghost chiles to any dish, fresh or cooked.
Ghost chiles are part of regional cuisine throughout the Assam region of India. They are used in Indian chile sauces and stews. They are even eaten alone, paradoxically, used to tame the summer heat. They are also used in smoke bombs and smeared on fences in paste form to keep wild elephants at a distance from farm land.
Ghost chiles were first discovered in a remote area within the Assam region of northeastern India. The extreme temperatures (up to 130° F) of the region and its highly humid environment contribute to the escalating heat levels of Ghost chiles. If the same chile were to be grown in less hot and more arid regions its heat level would reduce significantly, creating a chile with far less impact than what the Ghost chile has become known for. Its new found Guiness Book status and popularity are boosting once impoverished rural agrarian communities' economic potential. The chiles grow prolifically in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and the northeastern regions of India: Assam, Nagaland, and Manipur.
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