Guide to growing Bhut Jolokia the Ghost Pepper:

Bhut jolokia or Naga jolokia is a variety of chili pepper growing in the north eastern part of India. This variety holds the title of “Worlds hottest chili pepper”. I read about Bhut Jolokia several months back.  This chili originates from Assam and Nagaland Area. There they smear the paste made of bhut jolokia pepper on the fences to ward off elephants. Elephants!!

Being a chili fan myself, I couldn’t wait to grow this. I just remembered an incident as I typed this. It was in the US. Me and my friend walked into a Chinese restaurant and ordered Fried rice. The waiter asked “How spicy you want it in the rating of 1-5? I said 7. After a speechless moment he wrote something in the slip and went back in. Our food came and I took a bite. It was tasting like baby food. May be I should have said 10 or something for the chili rating.. Then I asked him for some hot sauce. He was absolutely speechless. :-).  Need I say more how bad I wanted this chilli?

 

Let me introduce  some terminology here. Tell me, how spicy is spicy?. Spiciness of the chili  is measured in SHU. SHU stands for Scoville Heat Units.  What makes the chili spicy? Capsaicin is the compound that adds the heat. More the capsaicin more hotter the chili.

Take couple of minutes and try to recall when was the hottest chili you tasted and compare it with the following table.

Source: Wikipedia [http://wikipedia.org]

 

Scoville heat units Examples
15,000,000–16,000,000 Pure capsaicin
8,600,000–9,100,000 Various capsaicinoids (e.g., homocapsaicin, homodihydrocapsaicin, nordihydrocapsaicin)
5,000,000–5,300,000 Law enforcement grade pepper spray,
855,000–1,359,000 Naga Viper pepper,Naga Jolokia pepper (ghost chili)
350,000–580,000 Red Savina habanero
100,000–350,000 Guntur chilli, Habanero chili,Scotch bonnet pepper, Datil pepper, Rocoto, Piri piri (African bird’s eye), Madame Jeanette, Jamaican hot pepper
50,000–100,000 Bird’s eye chili, Malagueta pepper,Chiltepin pepper, Pequin pepper
30,000–50,000 Cayenne pepper, Ají pepper,Tabasco pepper, Cumari pepper (Capsicum Chinese)
10,000–23,000 Serrano pepper, Peter pepper
2,500–8,000 Jalapeño pepper, Guajillo pepper, New Mexican varieties of Anaheim pepper, Paprika (Hungarian wax pepper), Tabasco sauce
500–2,500 Anaheim pepper, Poblano pepper, Rocotillo pepper, Peppadew
100–500 Pimento, Peperoncini
0 No significant heat, Bell pepper, Cubanelle, Aji dulce

 

By now, you must have got some idea on how hot this pepper is.

After I got the seeds from my friend, It was time for seed starting. I sowed the seeds in a tray and in 1 month they looked like the picture below. Bhut Jolokia plant is little different in terms of appearance. As one can see, the seedlings are short, stout and sturdy as well.

 

Bhut jolokia seedlings 1 month old

After couple of weeks, I transplanted the bhut jolokia seedlings  into a bigger pot and the steady growth started. Very vigorous plants with multiple flowers on every node.

naga jolokia seedlings transplant

Check out the healthy leaves and the shine. Surprisingly, this plant was very resistant to powdery mildew. While all the normal chili plants, I had, were affected by Powdery mildew, this one showed no such signs.

 

 

bhut/naga jolokia fullygrown 2 and half months old

A close up of growing tip with multiple flowers.

bhut jolokia leaves

 

Here is Bhut Jolokia chili in all its glory. It is little wrinkled in appearance and shiny on the outside.  I am yet to harvest and try it out myself.

 

 

bhut jolokia fruit

One important tip. In case you burnt your mouth from eating this chili or any other chili for that matter, take some milk or curd and rinse your mouth. Taking water will not be of much help.

 

If you love Bhut Jolokia just like me, then grab the seeds of the ghost pepper here.

 

My next post is on the success story of an urban gardener.

Enjoy!

GG

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61 Responses

  1. Thanks a lot for sharing your experience of growing the “Bhut”. I definitely am interested in getting my hands on seeds of this. Email to you on its way. I missed them in the recent Horticulture Show at Lalbagh.

  2. Hi GG,
    These chillies look too good. Wish I had read this post earlier , I could have requested for the seed . May be on my trip to Bangalroe I will collect it .

    The plants do look healthy. Have a good time.

      • Great to see you back and so active! Looking forward to seeing your seed catalog. Could you also consider putting up a list of what can be planted each month please? It would be so helpful.

  3. Hi,
    Great post as usual. What I really like about your posts is that you introduce some rare plants which poeple are generally not aware of. You are really an inspiration for plant lovers. I brought these red fruits from assam when I visited there. But never tasted them (scared) nor saved the seeds. Man, how do your seedling look so healthy. My veggies never look like these.

    • Thanks Chitra.
      I think growing something that is not easily available outside makes terrace gardening more meaningful. I get this a lot “tomato is so cheap outside …is it worth growing on your own?”. Now if we want one of these rare varieties there is no way but to grow one 😉

      More than the heat, there is this flavor. Its just awesome. My regular chili seedlings look little tired. The bhut J seedlings were very vigorous.

  4. Hi,
    That’s a superb post. This as well as others. My sister sent this article to me today and I’m hooked! These chillies I first had during my University days. Had lots of NE friends then. Apart from the really scorching heat, the flavour is simply superb.

    I’ve sent a mail with my request.

  5. Nice article.

    One thing I want to ask is I am having great difficulty in germinating seeds in the current cold months. There was no problem till nov, but since december not 1 has germinated due to cold?

    So gg, my question is, do you have any tips for germinating seeds in cold weather?

    -sarika

    • Hi Sarika,

      You are right, cold weather delays germination. One thing that really helps hasten seed germination is, soaking them overnight and also watering them with luke warm water. If you have a warm place in your house you can keep the trays there. Bottom heat hastens germination like crazy. Increasing the media temp to little higher than its surroundings works wonders..
      GG

  6. GG,

    It’s amazing to see so many successful experiments at your garden! And, do those chilli plants look healthy!

    Pls save some seeds for me; some day, I’ll purchase them. 🙂

    Regards,
    Asha (Rake-and-spade)

  7. Hi gg!
    U’ve got Awesome stuff here on ur blog!
    I’m new to gardening and want to grow my veggies in containers too. But I want to know wher I can buy seeds. I’m live in Mumbai. Do u know any places wher I can buy (retail) seeds here.
    I’ll b v grateful!
    Thanks!

  8. Hi,
    Can you explain to me why you need to transfer the plants to a bigger pot? Can’t we sow the seeds in a bigger pot and do away with this step?

    Thanks,
    Shanti

    • Good question. Though it is answered several times, I will try to answer it again. When you are growing many plants each in a large container some of them may not germinate and you will end up with lot of empty pots. When you sow seeds in one place and then transplant them into bigger pots. You get a uniform crop and in bigger pots.
      Got it?

    • you start the plants in starter pots in protected conditions, till the plant is big enough to face the elements. we harden the plants by gradually introducing the seedlings to the sun & move the plants to bigger pots, chili (or any plant) will move to flowering/fruiting when they are root bound. i.e the roots have hit the container & are going in circles & the plants realize that there is no more space to grow and it should fruit NOW & complete its life cycle. so the general idea is bigger pots better harvest (each variety has a limit on the number fruits it can carry at any given time though).

      do we need to follow the above steps? strictly no. The above steps makes sense when you are buying 10-20 seeds for 3$ & every seeds counts….( ~13Rs each seed makes me want to cry )

      when you are buying seeds in India where you get 100-500 seeds for 5-50Rs you have more leg room for mistakes
      you can put 2-5 seeds in each pot but make sure you remove (pinch off) if more than one sprout. remove all but the best looking of all the sprouts. you can give it 2-5 days till the seedlings expand completely before you do the thinning. Thinning is a VERY important step you don’t want more than one plant in one pot.

  9. Hi GG, Mindblowing Kohlrabi. Your site is an inspiration for all. The last weekend i rushed to the store and purchased all the seeds and began with the first step. I have been germinating menthi, spinach, Kholrabi and Okra. Your blog is extremely motivating. Thanks to you.

    Had a question for you, what is the nutrient supply that you give Okra and Kohlrabi? Is it NPK and can I use 19:19:19 for them? What is the frequency of use? I am planning to use Cocopeat and vermicompost as the medium.

    • Hi Dhivya,

      Thanks. Good to hear that you have done half of what is need for starting a garden. Good job.

      Just NPK would do. I have used 19-19-19 3g per liter every week. Cocopeat and vermicompost is a good mix for container vegetable gardening.
      Good luck
      GG

  10. Hi GG!

    Very nice post…I found it very interesting because we have a local restaurant here in Ohio (they’re in PA too) called Quaker Steak and Lube. Their claim-to-fame is their chicken wings and they have a ton of different flavors. The hottest flavor requires that you sign a waiver before eating them! I believe they are in the 150,000 SHU range.

    Duston

  11. Hey GG,

    “Bhut Jolokia”. How do you find them ?

    Another trick from your magical green hat. Your tips have surely made a difference to my approach to gardening.

    Keep on pouring.

    Happy Growing !
    UG

  12. Hi GG ,

    I love your blog . Help me to find out where can i buy Basil Plant or Seeds . I cook a lot of recipies where basil is required . What you get in market is expensive packets where i use a little and rest gets shrivelled and wasted in the refrigerator . I would like to grow my own basil but not getting the plant or seeds any where .

    cheers ,
    Rashmi

    • Basil seeds are little difficult to find but they are available. If you are in bangalore, you can get a plant in Dept of Horticulture Hulimavu. I can send you some seed if you need. I have some stock.

  13. Hello gg,
    Mindblowing blog!! Congrats on your sustained efforts on this blog.. I am hooked!!I am also from Bangalore and so it is especially informative for me..

    I have couple of questions. Will be highly grateful if you could take time to answer.

    1. Which is more effective? – cocopeat+vermicompost or NPK with cocopeat/perlite/vermiculite. If it is NPK, is it necessary to feed the plant everyday.

    2. The basil plant in Hulimavu- is it the basil herb used for culinary purpose?

    Thank you so much.. Your lovely effort is keeping a lot of us inspired to do certain things which I never thought I could!!
    Kanchana

    • Hi Kanchana

      Thanks
      Effectiveness depends on the quality of compost you use. The amount of nitrogen, phosphoros and potassium present in compost is way lesser than the standard inorganic fertilizers we get in the market. But a rich soil amended with quality compost can yield equally well.
      You don’t need perlite/vermiculite.
      NPK ( along with mg, calcium and micronutrients) are absolutely essential if you are using mediums that have no nutrienst in them like perlite, vermiculite and straight cocopeat. If you use vermicompost mixed then feeding can be made weekly. Else it has to be made daily basis or alternate days.

      AFAIK, the basil plant is for culinary purposes. However I have never used it myself for that purpose hence I am not 100% sure of the same.

      Thanks for your nice words
      gg

  14. Is the basil you are talking about the one called as Sabja in hindi (Occimum basilicum). Its called thirunoothu pachillai in tamil. You find that quite commonly here. Problem is it becomes highly invasive once introduced into a garden though the smell is heavenly

  15. I would like to have some Bhoot Jolokia seeds please.

    Also,i would like to ask you a few questions:-

    I have planted chillie seeds in my pot a month back and they still have not grown in the sense that the plant is so tiny.
    I use Vermicompost , Neem Powder and Coco Peat for my plants – Is this enough?
    The ratio of Vermi Compost and Coco Peat is 1:1 – is this good enough
    I have taken help of my gardener for my initial plants in terms of mixing the ingredients and stuff. He has mixed horse manure ,soil and sand for most of the plants about a month ago – bhindi,cabbage,palak,methi,lettuce,spring beet, arekere,tomato,chillies and capsicum. But i was successful only in methi that too just got a bunch .My palak is not grown as much as the leaves that you buy in the market. So is the case with the rest of the plants.Can you help me out in this please?Do i need to change something – mixture/ingredients etce tc..
    Rgds

    Abhishek

    • Orchid from seeds are difficult since they are very tiny and need a symbiotic fungus to germinate. You can get curry leaf and herbs from many nurseries in and around bangalore.

  16. Hi gg,
    Thank you for the prompt reply regarding my questions about NPK n compost..Apologies for the delay though.. I appreciate the way you clearly put out your points.. makes it very easy for beginners like me to understand. I have started out with a few tomato plants, radish, spinach, few keerai types. Also growin sum foliage plants like coleus n herbs.
    It is a whole different feeling every day to walk out into your patio to check their progress and getting excited about new flowers n developments..
    When you say using NPK, i suppose it is not an absolutely organic approach right? N did u use NPK on spinach and radish?

    • Hello Kanchana,

      Checking the progress of plants and seeing change everyday is what makes gardening a great hobby.

      Yes, I use NPK for radish and spinach for the pots that have cocopeat as medium.

      • i am keen to grow “Bhut jolokia”. i am looking for the seeds and i am from Bangalore. please let me know your contact details.

  17. GG, the seeds you gave germinated second time around. Though guilty of using some root hormones from our lab. Planted 10, 8 shot up!. Planning to shift them soon to a shady spot in our back garden. Summer has started and you know very well how hot it can get here. However, the heartening news is that during my university days, it was grown successfully in Madras heat!

    Keep up the good work!

    Thanks again for the seeds.

    • Thanks for the update Gokul. Glad to hear that you got them germinated!.. Chennai is hotter than Bhut jolokia itself :P…
      Good luck and do keep me posted on how it grows and yields..

  18. I have the Butt Juka seeds and I am going to plant them asap. Just wanted to know what type of soil is best and what type of furtlizer would you recommend?

  19. I have readed your few of posts and i like them.I didnt thought their are gardeners from india but when i searched for pages from india i have got yout site.I will buying some seeds and containers etc to test this plants.Ill be going to post in your forum soon for questions.

  20. Hello,

    could you please tell me where I can get these ghost peppers? also dried ghost peppers. I am not able to find and need it urgently. THanks a ton.

  21. Hello,

    could you please tell me where I can get these ghost peppers in bangalore? also dried ghost peppers. I am not able to find and need it urgently. THanks a ton.

  22. Thanks for a good information and pictures Geekgardner. I am trying to grow some hot chillies in containers at home in California. The seed I sowed is of red dry pepper that is used for hot chilli powder. (It may be sankeshwari or Byadgi it has glossy skin when dry) However the green chillies I am getting are very sweet- I can eat the whole chilli directly. How can I make it grow hotter? Thanks

  23. Hi,
    Liked your blog very much. found while searching online. I am based in Kolkata. How can I get seeds? I want to grow capsicum, french beans at home. Where can I find the quality seeds?

  24. Hi,

    I a chili fan! and i’ve been dreaming of tasting and growing bhut jolokia for a long time.
    I am in bangalore too,recently shifted 😉
    Can you sell me a few seeds?

  25. Hi Friend,

    really impressed with your beautiful narration and interest and command on subject.

    I have a query for you although …
    DO you have “Cayenne pepper” seeds, OR knew the place in Bangalore where i can get them few. I am searching for this for medicinal use.

    Many Thanks.
    Sewaklal

  26. Could you guide me as to how i could get some Jalapeno saplings/seedlings.. and in Bangalore please. Thanks & Regards.

  27. hi gg ,
    i would like some seeds and im from chennai would you kidly tell to which account should wire the money , i already spoke with regarding the price and all ……
    i would be waitting for ur rply .and i already sent u an email but i did not get a rply.

    a.s.rolla

  28. hi geekgardener !

    i have a bhut jolokia plant which has started flowering but the flowers fall off after 2-3 days.i want to know what is the cause for the falling of flowers and also how to save the flowers from falling and producing the chillies…thanx..

    • Pollination will be taken care of naturally by bees and other insects if you plants are kept outside. If grown inside your plants may suffer from flower drop in which case you may want to consider hand pollination. Don’t worry, this is not as sordid as it may sound. All you need to do is wait until you have a few flowers on your plants then lightly rub your little finger inside the flower heads on your plants. Alternatively use a small artists paint brush or a cotton bud. This will do the bees job of moving pollen around from flower to flower.

      Source : thechilliking.com

  29. hi sir, i was searching for Bhut Jolokia seeds from long time, i have a small garden where i am intrested in growing them as a hobby. i wish you can help me.

  30. Hi GG
    i tested one bhut jalakia. i love its smell but too strong. but i came to know it does not upset stomach.i tried in pots on my roof but plant’s health is not good. few fruits appeared but when these are matured to give a dash of red colour some invisible insects eat up that reddish part.

  31. Hi geekgardener I am really exited to know that the seeds of Bhoot Jolokia are available in Bangalore please let me know how can i get them from you

  32. I am about to procure seeds of Bhut Jolokia . What are special planting precautions that I’ll need for a place like Delhi . Summer is just knocking at the door , to be followed by monsoon and then autumn and so on !

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