Chill­ies as good as drugs, ex­pert says

Central Leader - - WHAT’S ON - AMANDA SAXTON

Aus­tralian chilli ex­pert Neil Smith reck­ons eat­ing chill­ies is ‘‘as good as’’ tak­ing drugs.

He was at Auck­land’s Hot Sauce Fes­ti­val on Satur­day, re­view­ing the big black mama - a su­per spicy, tear­jerker of a chilli - be­fore the an­nual New Zealand Chilli Eat­ing Cham­pi­onships kicked off.

‘‘It’s like some­one’s shoved a hot coal down your throat,’’ he called out with a hic­cough, neck veins pul­sat­ing, af­ter swal­low­ing the wrin­kled ma­roon fruit. ‘‘And my gums have started go­ing ‘whow - whow - whow.’’

Smith, 50, said he loved eat­ing eat­ing burn­ing hot chill­ies for the af­ter ef­fect - an en­dor­phin rush as good as drugs.

‘‘I think that’s why a lot of peo­ple get into chill­ies, ‘cause of the feel­ing you get af­ter­wards,’’ he said.

He said peo­ple don’t need to use il­le­gal cannabis. They could just munch chill­ies.

Smith reck­oned the spicy fruit were ad­dic­tive: ‘‘Af­ter a while your tol­er­ances do build and what you find is you have to find hot­ter chill­ies to get that kick, or buzz,’’ he said.

Smith had been grow­ing, pro­cess­ing, and re­view­ing chill­ies at the Hippy Seed Com­pany in New South Wales since 1998. He was some­thing of an in­ter­net sen­sa­tion with fans around the world.

His wife was one, and the pair met when she asked him a ques­tion on Twit­ter about grow­ing chill­ies in Den­mark. She moved to Australia and they’ve since been mar­ried five years.

Ex­treme chilli eat­ing is not for sissies. Last year ghost pep­per puree burned a 2.5cm hole in an Amer­i­can man’s oe­soph­a­gus.

To win the 2017 NZ Chilli Eat­ing Cham­pi­onships, 12 con­tenders ate their way through a line-up of chilli species that var­ied in spici­ness.

Event or­gan­iser and Kiwi chilli grower Clint Meyer said hope­fuls started off at the rel­a­tively hu­man­friendly jalapeno and cli­maxed with a big black mama, via the world’s hottest chilli - the Carolina reaper.

Each chilli had to be held in the mouth for 30 sec­onds be­fore be­ing swal­lowed. If you drank, left the ta­ble, or vom­it­ted, you were out.

The event was held at Sweat­shop Brew Kitchen. Pro hot sauce mak­ers from around the coun­try had stalls dis­play­ing their wares to around 600 chilli fans, and judge a home­made hot sauce com­pe­ti­tion.

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