The Ghost in the Garden

I’ve been trying to figure out a good blog post for Halloween that relates to horticulture and while I was watering my patio garden, it occurred to me…there’s a ghost in my garden.

Planted in one of Lechuza’s sub-irrigation containers, is my naga jolokia; a funky crinkled shaped red hot pepper plant that’s better known as the “Ghost Pepper.” How the ghost pepper got its name, I’m not sure – but I do know it’s one of the hottest peppers in the world and one bite can make a person disappear into the bathroom.  So much heat in fact, it’s 1,000,000 Scoville units on the Scoville heat scale.  As a reference, ghost peppers are 401.5 times hotter than Tabasco sauce.

Ghost PeppersHave I eaten a Ghost pepper you ask?  Honestly, I’ve only dabbed my finger on some boiled ghost pepper sauce, then touched the tip of my tongue and my whole mouth and throat burned for a few minutes. My tongue was numb for the next hour.

If you are into the hot sauce craze, this is your plant. I had no idea the lengths some heat fanatics will go to find a new, bigger and hotter sauce to make your eyes water, your nose run and make your throat feel like you just swallowed a pincushion.  While sightseeing in St. Augustine, a spooky historic town, I even found an entire store solely dedicated to selling hot sauces from around the world. A friend of mine likes to create his own special ghost sauce and when he does, you can’t enter his kitchen without feeling like you just got maced.  He sold the recipe to raise money for his fire hall and now he mostly makes the sauce to see who’s brave enough to try it.

Besides being a novelty plant, there is another reason we should have the guts to eat a ghost pepper. Capsaicin, the very compound that gives peppers their heat is currently being studied to treat cancer, pain relief for arthritis, migraines, muscles, digestion problems, lowering blood pressure, weight loss and boosting energy. Can you imagine this weird looking red pod being able to kill and stop cancer like a ghost that can penetrate the body and wipe out the evil cancer invading our healthy cells?  Or take away the horrible pain after surgery or the crippling effects of arthritis?  How wonderful would it be to come home from an exhausting day at work and by ingesting a little amount of capsaicin you find all the energy needed to finish all the laundry, clean the house, make dinner and get the kids ready for bed all while losing weight?

Over the last thirteen years, I have experienced excruciating intestinal pain, twenty surgeries, inflammatory arthritis, muscle aches, fatigue and if this pepper can help ease any of these issues without the bad side effects other traditional medications have, I’m planting a whole field of these ghosts.  As horticulturists, I think it is our duty to promote research such as this.  Wouldn’t it be amazing if the cure for cancer could be growing in our own backyards or patio containers?

Then perhaps, the Ghost pepper should be renamed, the Miracle pepper.

Sherry has been part of the interiorscape industry for over fifteen years, starting at an entry level job at North Florida's largest greenhouse and currently owning two horticulture companies. At UMaine, Sherry majored in English where she worked part-time writing scripts for a local college TV studio.

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