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Links to media coverage of Curry Seed and Chile Co, and its sister company Santa Cruz Chili & Spice Co. Pearce farmer Ed Curry shows FFA students the inside of a chile pepper where capsaicin is formed.
Read the entire story, Building a Better Pepper, and check the links to other stories below. When Central Michigan University alumnus Ed Currie began researching peppers for their medical and healing benefits, the idea of holding a Guinness World Record had not entered his mind. As the product of a disease-ridden family and the fast-and-loose culture of the '70s and '80s, Currie was determined to find a connection between lifestyle choices and the properties of peppers with the likelihood of contracting illnesses such as heart disease and cancer. This endeavor led him down a road of experimentation and success that culminated in his ownership of the world’s hottest pepper to date. An entrepreneur from the beginning, Currie began his collegiate career as a vagabond of sorts, taking odd jobs where he could, valuing his social life over academics as a general rule. When he arrived at CMU in 1984, Currie majored in economics while holding several jobs around town including Blackstone Bar in downtown Mount Pleasant, working sporting events and campus dining.
Always finding time for fun, Currie was a member of Greek Life at CMU and did his best to stay plugged in to the social aspects of campus. Former roommate Mark Butcher of Mount Pleasant met Currie through a mutual friend at Mid-Michigan Community College in the late '80s. Since losing touch after their college days, Butcher had been seeking to catch up with Currie for some time when he heard of his Guinness World Record award. Currie noted during his studies that populations in indigenous areas boasted relatively low cases of disease, and the common denominator throughout all of them was the consumption of particularly spicy peppers. After graduation, Currie immediately entered the financial industry, making extra money on the side by owning various restaurants and bars. By this time, Currie had accumulated numerous pepper specimens, working on his research in every spare moment he had. Finally, after 33 years of devotion to his hobby, Currie and his wife Linda decided it was time to make the pepper business his full-time career.
It was around this time in his life when Currie realized his modifications to the peppers in the name of good health were actually making them astoundingly hot and spicy.
According to an article released by the Associated Press, the heat of the pepper was measured in Scoville Heat Units, or SHU.
Currie, who is now being sought after around the world for interviews in the wake of his fame, said he has at least 19 other peppers already created that are even hotter than his record-winning Carolina Reaper, and that he plans to unveil the new world’s hottest pepper sometime next year. While attaching the Guinness name to his products has not come cheaply, Currie’s national recognition has allowed him to begin expanding his business beyond the confines of South Carolina. Currie dedicates his success to his deep commitment to faith, a lifestyle change after his more wild college days that has allowed him to better embrace the opportunities life brought his way. Curry Farms is, and has been, the center of chile pepper innovation and development since Curry, 59, first began implementing Mendelian crossbreeding genetics back in the 1970s to improve his chiles.
Because Curry’s work requires such an inordinate amount of time and passion, he has developed a reputation within the industry as one of the best, and only, innovators. His innovations have led to large canneries and food companies, like Buena Foods, almost exclusively using his seeds on their farms. Part of the reason Curry was able to successfully corner a large portion of the market is simply because the chile industry is so small.
Nationally, chile represents roughly one-tenth of a percent of annual crop production, valued at $193 billion.



Arizona’s chile pepper industry, valued at just over $2 million, represents just one percent of the nation’s chile production.
For comparisons sake, watermelon, a crop that in no way bears the same amount of cultural significance to the Southwest as chile peppers do, makes up 12 times as much of Arizona’s total crop production.
Companies like Monsanto have cornered the markets of more profitable crops like corn and soybeans. Crops with significantly smaller profit margins, like chile, are left alone by large companies, which allows passionate, talented people like Ed Curry to make a name for himself using simpler, more natural methods. The genetic crossbreeding he uses to develop his chile varieties are rooted in the fundamental, but time consuming, methods that Gregor Mendel pioneered in the mid-1800s and should not be confused with the controversial, modern practices that lead to products like non-browning apples. With white hair, a smile-wrinkled face, and wearing more Carhartt clothing than a Montanan rancher, Curry hardly seems like a man who is essentially the Walter White of the chile pepper industry.
Growing up in Southeastern Arizona, between the Dragoon Mountains and the Chiricahua Mountains, Curry was put to work on the family farm from an early age, an upbringing he attributes to his parents German and Irish roots.
The impression left on Curry was so substantial, that at just eight-years-old he knew chile was his calling in life.
Phil Villa, a family friend who worked with Curry’s dad growing up, recognized his interest and helped him understand the genetics behind breeding great chile. This mentorship was invaluable to Curry and it sparked his curiosity, inspiring him to develop a better product and ultimately leading to the development of his first chile in the 1980s, the Arizona 20. The Arizona 20 pepper, which he released publicly in 1993, represented an important milestone for not just Curry, but the entire chile pepper industry. When Curry first started working on his father’s farm, standardized and controlled heat variability was almost unheard of in commercial pepper production.
To put that variability in perspective, 600 scovilles is roughly the difference between a banana pepper, and a relatively low-heat pepper, like a jalapeno.
A variation that significant can spell trouble for companies like the Santa Cruz Chili and Spice Company, Curry Farm’s sister company located in Tumacacori, which rely on consistent and stable heat levels for their chile based products. Owner Jean Neubauer, who has known Curry since they were both kids and exclusively uses his chile peppers, says that it is difficult to sell commercial chile products, like her company’s chile paste, if the peppers they use do not have a standardized heat level. Salsa manufacturer Pace Foods use capsaicin extract, the active component of chile peppers that makes them spicy, as a shortcut to control the amount of heat in their salsas and other chile products.
Both a mild and hot salsa from Pace will use the same type of sweet jalapeno, but the company will add more capsaicin to the hot salsa than a mild. However, smaller companies don’t have the resources to develop both their own sweet jalapeno and add capsaicin as needed. Curry recognized the market’s need for peppers with minimal heat variability and began developing a chile with a variability of only 50-150 scovilles, a dramatic improvement over old chile varieties. This variety, the Arizona 20, quickly became the standard of green and red chile in the United States and represented the start of Curry’s quest to revolutionize chiles. He even coyly suggests that one day he would like to revolutionize the candy industry by somehow crossing chocolate and chile flavor genes together. Still determined to continue his innovative work, Curry remains inspiringly satisfied with all that he has already accomplished in the windswept Sulfur Springs Valley. Gareth Farrell is a reporter for Arizona Sonora News, a service from the School of Journalism with the University of Arizona. Curry said gene manipulation allows farmers to respond more effectively to issues including hunger and medical needs. He described Currie as friendly, personable and someone bound to accomplish whatever he put his mind to.


While initially shocked, Butcher said it was not surprising that Currie would be met with great success.
Determined to find an alternative solution to diseases such as cancer and heart disease, he began to study the properties and health benefits of peppers with vigor.
Eventually he put his economics degree to use at First Union Bank in South Carolina, where he moved to in 2001.
By selling his product through the PuckerButt Pepper Company, Currie was able to support his livelihood while continuing his efforts with medical research. Additionally, Currie revealed plans to build a new processing facility and farm, which combined will employ upwards of 150 people in the local area. With the giant success of his pepper business, Currie and his wife have also been able to adopt two young children, and he continues his work in potential health benefits found in peppers. He spends years carefully selecting and breeding pepper plants to develop specific characteristics, such as a standardized heat level and greater drought tolerance, so he can create new and better varieties of peppers.
New Mexico, which proudly touts and markets its red and green chiles as the nation’s best, almost exclusively uses his seeds.
They are behind almost all the genetic advancement for those crops and provide most of the seed farmers use.
What makes Curry such a determined, dedicated farmer is his belief that he can make the best chiles in the world, something he would never have pursued if not for his parents. While working the fields, Curry developed a fierce appreciation for the chile peppers that his dad grew. According to Curry, peppers from the same type of plant could have a difference in heat of almost 600 scovilles, the standard measurement of chile pepper heat. This way, their product is consistent in flavor and heat, which means they don’t get angry letters from mothers whose toddlers were left bawling after eating a supposedly mild salsa.
He is developing chile peppers with a thinner waxy skin, better disease resistance, and more color pigment, which the makeup industry uses in lipstick. Even internationally, in countries like South Africa and Israel, Curry has developed a loyal group of farmers dedicated to his product. The Guinness Book of World Records recently certified his Smokin’ Ed’s Carolina Reaper as the hottest pepper in the world. Back then, he was a banker by day and sold his peppers and hot sauces through his side business: the Pucker Butt Pepper Company. Pucker Butt has grown to include 20 staffers, several fields that grow a variety of peppers, and stores in Fort Mill and inside the Seventh Street Market in uptown Charlotte.
Currie says since the Guinness World Record news, the company’s daily orders have more than tripled. But Currie hasn’t lost sight of why he started growing peppers in the first place: a substance in the peppers called capsinoids. And there’s a lot of medical research that’s proving us correct." Currie’s family has a high rate of cancer.



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