Is it possible to increase your tolerance for spicy food, and if so how long does it take?
Since I can remember, I’ve hated spicy food. Sriracha was hot and a dose of Jalapeño would have me sucking back milk the rest of the night . Maybe its my masculinity feeling threatened, or a genuine desire to appreciate a cuisine I’ve never been able to enjoy, but a few months back, I decided to try and develop a taste for spice.
After reading some spice themed articles and watching some spicy Youtube videos, I committed myself to eating progressively hotter food everyday for 70 days, until I eventually landed on the (at the time) hottest pepper in the world, the Carolina Reaper.
Day 1-The Threshold Test
Before this experiment I would eat something spicy once a month, and when I did, it was often by accident.
In order to develop a taste for spice, first I needed to figure out my spicy threshold. To do this, I set out an increasingly hot lineup of sauce and peppers and ate them one by one until I felt I had hit my threshold. After a few chips covered in tabasco sauce (who even likes that stuff?), some tears, lots of milk and an Anaheim pepper, I finally landed on the jalapeño as my max. At 6000 Scovilles, the jalapeño is .4% as hot as the Carolina Reaper (1.5 Million Scovilles).
Day 2-Jalapeños for Breakfast
Once I worked out my spicy threshold, I had to figure out a way to consistently eat spicy food. My plan was to eat jalapeños in my eggs for breakfast and mass cook spicy meals for supper. Breakfast is the only meal I consistently eat, and if I mass cooked something spicy for supper, I would eat it because throwing away $25 worth of food is a damn shame. Though it was rough on my taste buds, the first day had an air of excitement to it, the kind of superficial feeling you get anytime you start something new.
Day 3-Lunch Quickly Becomes the Favourite Meal
Breakfast used to be this wonderful sacred thing I took part in every morning. Eggs, with hash browns, coffee, a smoothie and maybe a piece of toast. The jalapeños wrecked this for me. Supper was also never the same, and lunch became the meal I looked forward to every day.
Day 17-Moving up to Serranos
After about two weeks of hot breakfasts and suppers, I began to notice the heat from the jalapeños not effecting me as much. Were my tastebuds actually changing? Was I imagining improvement to justify all the pain I had put myself through the last few weeks? Either way, I felt it was time to move up to making food with the Serrano pepper, which sits around 10,000 Scoville units. As was becoming tradition, I took a bite of the pepper to symbolize the beginning of the new challenge. It was awful.
Day 25-Tasty Pepper
I ate a Manzano pepper (10,000-30,000 Scovilles) and I thought this one didn’t taste too bad. I never thought I would’ve said that about a pepper. Was I beginning to appreciate the spice?
Day 43-Anxiety about Dieing
At this point, I had been eating spicy food everyday for 43 days, and as “The Day of the Reaper” moved closer, my fear of dieing a capsaicin induced death became a much more pressing issue. To try and curb that anxiety, I decided to sit down with Ed Currie, the man who invented the reaper, to see what advice he could give me.
Can you die eating a Carolina Reaper?
No, unless you have an allergy for peppers you can’t die from eating a Carolina Reaper.
Does it damage your tastebuds?
No, peppers cannot damage your tastebuds.
Do you have any tips to prepare for eating this?
There isn’t really anyway to prepare to eat a Carolina Reaper. I would make sure you eat a big meal beforehand to reduce the stomach pains after eating the pepper. Also, lemon juice seems to work well with taking away the spice.
Does it hurt twice?
*Laughing* Yes, until you get used to it.
Following the interview, I took a bite of a Red Thai Pepper (100,000 Scovilles) and cried a bit while Ed ate a spoonful of his Chocolate Plague Sauce (1.5 mil Scovilles) and laughed at my weak performance. Despite the embarrassment and burning tongue, I left the interview feeling good about my chances of getting through this experience relatively unscathed.
Day 56-I Enjoy Spicy Food
Two months in, I could say with certainty that I not only had a higher tolerance for peppers and spicy food, but also I to enjoyed the heat. By now most of my meals included a bit of mild hot sauce for the enjoyment of the flavour, not the training. With only two weeks left to go before eating the reaper, I decided to finally bite the bullet and eat the Habanero Pepper (300,000 Scovilles).
Even though the Habanero was supposed to be significantly hotter than the Red Thai, I had difficulty telling the difference between the two. I was hoping that this would be consistent with when I ate the Reaper two weeks from now.
Day 70-The Carolina Reaper
Before eating the pepper, I ate a big steak dinner, watched some scary Youtube videos of people doing the same thing and had many nervous poops. When I finally put the pepper in my mouth, the first thought that came to my head was “this tastes awful, there is literally nothing good about this pepper”. Within seconds I felt an intense burning sensation throughout my mouth, tears forming in my eyes and blood rushing to my face. When I finally had the guts to swallow it, it felt like a had just consumed a mushy mass of fire ants and they were biting me as they travelled down to my gut. At this point, I decided the Reaper was nothing like the Habanero or Thai Red Pepper, those were tough experiences, this was torture.
The worst part about the Carolina Reaper, is the long term effects it has on your body. Half an hour after chomping into the pepper, eating some ice cream and throwing up multiple times, I started to get stomach cramps. And they were BAD. This continued for four more sleepless hours, until I had to force myself to throw the pepper up. The next day I felt like I had drank way too much the night before, and spent the most of the day lying in bed, watching non-spicy related videos on Youtube.
Present Day (6 months later)
As I’m writing this post, it has been about 6 months since eating the reaper, and since then I have stopped consistently eating spicy food for breakfast and supper. My tolerance for spice has definitely decreased, but I still enjoy eating spicy food! Before this experience, the thought of eating anything spicy was a complete turnoff, and now thanks to this experiment, I get to enjoy a whole world of food I didn’t think existed. Would I do it again? Absolutely, just without the Carolina Reaper. That was awful.
Check out the video of this story here, there is also a piano involved: