The Naga Morich or ‘snake chilli’ is a variety related to the Naga Jolokia. Native to both the Sylhet region of Bangladesh and northeastern India, the small to medium-sized shrubs bear peppers which ripen from green through yellow and orange to red. Sweet and slightly tart in flavour, it also has intriguing undertones of woody smokiness. It is used judiciously in Bengali and Bangladeshi cooking, and often served raw as a side dish.
Smeared on jute fences or burned in smoky fires, the pungent smell of the Naga Jolokia is used to ward off marauding wild elephants in its native northern India. India’s defence establishment has also explored their possible use in smoke grenades as an alternative to tear gas. It ranked as the hottest chilli in the world for several years but has now been replaced several times over – the difference is academic, though, as this chilli remains dangerously hot and should be treated with extreme caution. It varies in heat levels, which are adversely affected by growing conditions, but will always be above 800,000 SHU. It also varies in size, texture and colour, most frequently found in its red form but also in shades of orange, yellow, peach, chocolate and purple. Its many names include Red Naga, Bih Jolokia (poison chilli – that’s how hot it is!), Bhut Jolokia or Jolokia Bhut, Raja Mircha, Saga Jolokia (mystery chilli), Tezpur Chilli (named for the Assamese city of Tezpur), U-morok (tree pepper), Cobra Chilli and Ghost chilli / Ghost pepper.
The Naga Viper was bred by UK chilli farmer Gerald Fowler of the Chilli Pepper Company in Cark, Cumbria, and briefly enjoyed the status of hottest chilli in the world. Reported to be able to peel paint, this chilli is outrageously hot and should be treated with extreme caution. An unstable hybrid of the Naga Morich, Naga Jolokia and Trinidad Scorpion varieties, it is unable to produce consistent offspring and is in continued development.