With a paintbrush and a whole lot of patience, the man we’re about to meet is pushing the definition of one vegetable to new extremes! You know his most famous creation by the name of Carolina Reaper—a mind-bendingly hot pepper. His story begs the question: what else is seen as impossible right now that our unique creativity and passions could make happen? 

“Smokin’ Ed” Currie has turned his passion for breeding the hottest peppers in the world into a celebration of challenge and joy for himself and others. Now, people from all over the world send him videos of their experience with something he’s created.  Perhaps this article will be just the thing to inspire you to dive in to what you love, too!

Image: a crate of Carolina Reapers

A crate of Carolina Reapers!
Source: PuckerButt Pepper Company // Facebook

For the blistery, warty love of peppers

When Ed discovered his obsession with spice and breeding peppers, he turned it into an experiment of just how hot he could go. Coming in at 1,641,300 SHU (Scoville Heat Units), the Carolina Reaper is about 300 times hotter than a jalapeño. That’s definitely too hot for me, but it’s floored the hot pepper world. It’s the one to beat, the show stopper, and eye-waterer—the one that people all over the globe have filmed themselves trying.

But why make something like this? The answer will sound more familiar than you’d think!

At first, you may think that Ed’s passion for spice stems from some sort of masochistic drive. And while it very well might, what really keeps him breeding the world’s hottest peppers is that it’s a creative outlet unlike any other.

What else can peppers do? How will the baby of “this” pepper and “that” pepper turn out? Can they get even hotter? What’s the limit?! 

In essence, Ed’s been combining traits of multiple peppers to get the hottest ones since the 1980s—it’s what he loves! So, let’s meet Ed and his peppers in this very spicy video, to see how adding spice to our lives can really pay off.

Want to plant a Carolina Reaper yourself? You can purchase seeds over at PuckerButt Pepper Company’s website! They also have great pepper-growing advice over there if you’d like to even try your hand at growing a pepper with a lower Scoville Heat Unit. Like, say, a bell pepper, that comes in at a whopping 0 SHU.

But if you do grow a Carolina Reaper, maybe don’t eat the whole thing like these folks did. Your body may find it difficult!

Big thanks to the late Great Big Story for creating such a wonderful short piece about Ed and his peppers. If you’d like to see more of their work, make sure you check them out on YouTube!

For more on exactly how Ed breeds the hottest of hot peppers, check out this awesome video from WIRED next!

Following that burning passion

What started as Ed’s attempt to home-grow healthier food over three decades ago has turned into hundreds of new varieties of a vegetable that we thought we knew so well. His pepper passion has entirely reframed the possibilities of spice, and it’s people like this—hyper focused on what they love—that help us all see untapped potential.

Is there something that you love to do? Something that others may see as a little strange or over the top? Keep doing it! The world needs your unique blend of knowledge, skill, and passion to keep moving forward in a positive direction, because the more people who are out there pursuing what they love, the more wonderful our world becomes. I mean, what’s a better world than one where everyone’s finding joy?

So, get out there! See where your burning passion can take you.

Playing with our food!

Now, let’s talk a little more about this whole changing food idea. Humans have been designing our food for as long as we’ve been around, combining traits from this and that to create plants that produce more, survive diseases better, or more popularly: just for their appearance.

Take carrots, for example. The humble orange carrot that we all know was actually never orange to begin with—it changed color because of politics of all things! Originally sporting vibrant colors of white, purple, and yellow, carrots changed their look in the 17th century when Dutch growers wanted to pay tribute to William of Orange, who led the struggle for Dutch independence. 2 (What an honor!)

Or you can look at watermelons—yep!

According to a very interesting study combining some of the earliest art we have and genetic analysis of plant material from the same time, it was discovered that the sweet, juicy, summer staple we love has been tracked to have tasted like cucumber when the ancient Egyptians munched on it. Still sounds tasty, but how did it get to where it is today?

We’ve always been playing with our food, and people like Ed who continue this tradition are helping connect us all back to our roots just a bit more. Fruits and vegetables come in all shapes and sizes—varieties that you never would have thought existed! We’ve all become so used to thinking that “this is how a tomato looks” or “this is how a cucumber needs to look” that a lot of us haven’t discovered the phenomenal opportunities we have for creative exploration within each plant family.

The world’s always open to new possibilities, and as always, my friend, I hope you do the same.

If you’d like to discover some other fun ways people are testing what plants can really do, make sure you check out these articles from our archive next!

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  1. Great Big Story. “Breeding the World’s Hottest Pepper.” YouTube, 17 July 2017, www.youtube.com/watch?v=hrF3jVppfr4. Accessed 29 Mar. 2021.
  2. Khimm, Suzy, “Are Carrots Orange for Political Reasons?” Washington Post, The Washington Post, 9 Sept. 2011, www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/ezra-klein/post/carrots-are-orange-for-an-entirely-political-reason/2011/09/09/gIQAfayiFK_blog.html. Accessed 29 Mar. 2021.

Sam has written and edited hundreds of articles since joining the EWC team in 2016. She writes about topics from the wonders of nature to the organizations changing the world and the simple joys in life! Outside of the EWC office, she’s a part-time printmaker, collector of knick-knacks, and taster of cheeses.