HERBS are a wonderful way of adding flavour, texture and colour to your food (have you been collecting yours?).
They're the thoughtful, intricate art chefs put into their works for the plate, but sometimes a dish calls for something nothing short of artillery.
These chillies aren't the jalapeños on your subway. They aren't the bird's eye chilli your mate dared you to eat. These require careful preparation and - there's no way around it - an extremely strong stomach.
An appreciation for super-hot chillies isn't just a joke or macho challenge. The growing techniques involved in producing the hottest or most visually appealing chilly push the boundaries of horticulture. Bringing them into a dish people can actually enjoy is a rewarding challenge worthy of significant pride.
So just how hot can it get in the kitchen?
5. Bhut Jolokia/Ghost Pepper (1,041,427 SHU)
The ghost pepper is most people's go-to chilli when they think of the superlatively hot.
Plenty of YouTube videos, TV shows and books have referenced its extreme heat and for good reason - it was the hottest chilli from 2007 to 2011 and was one of, if not the first chilli to break the one million Scoville heat units (SHU) mark.
Like most super-hots, the ghost is a hybrid of other species, in this case, a hybrid of C. chinense and C. frutescens grown in India.
To give you an idea of how hot this chilli is, the first group to report an actual number for its heat was the Indian Defence Research Laboratory while looking into less-lethal hand grenades.
Where to get it: Australian chilli suppliers will almost always have Bhut seeds available. Try The Chilli Factory or Chilli Seed Bank online or check your local grower.
How to use it: Cook with pork or dried fish. Use to add heat to pickles and chutneys. Add to curries for extreme power.
4. The Infinity Chilli (1,067,286 SHU)
The Infinity Chilli is important not only as an irresponsibly-hot chilli but as a catalyst for improving the tests behind awarding the "hottest chilli" moniker.
When the Guinness World Records awarded the Infinity the "hottest chilli" record, it did so after just one test of one chilli at the University of Warwick. Even the university was surprised. Testing one chilli or even one batch can only tell that one batch was 'stressed' by being denied water or was 'lucky' enough to grow hot.
It's now accepted that an average heat level over a cultivar stabilised over five years with multiple testing is required for the award.
How (not) to use it: A restaurant created a curry from this chilli, calling it "The Widowmaker" using 20 chillis with a claimed heat of 6 million SHU. 300 people tried and failed, with the first person to finish it taking an hour, including ten minutes of hallucinating from the endorphins.
3. Trinidad Scorpion Butch T pepper (500,000 - 1,463,700 SHU)
Welcome to Australia, where if nature isn't already trying to kill us, we'll make damn sure it tries harder.
Neil Smith of The Hippy Seed Company on the NSW Central Coast bought seeds of the Trinidad Scorpion chilli, already super-hot, and by growing the plants in soil fertilised by run-off from a worm farm, turned it into the hottest chilli on record (properly tested too).
Neil explains that the animal bits in the worm farm run-off send the plants defence systems into high alert - causing a much hotter chilli.
The writer of this article can attest to this chilli's extreme heat from personal experience. The taste is wonderfully full-bodied compared to many chillis and the heat builds steadily but strongly. Be aware - it's number three on this list for a very good reason. For those unprepared or uninitiated, this isn't a taste, it's just pain.
Where to get it: Support Australian-made and get it from the source. The Hippy Seed Company also sells sauces made from a wide variety of their other chilli strains - but this is the monster itself. If properly grown, you can expect to hit around 1.1m SHU, if not more.
How to use it: If you're keen, the Butch T can be made into a sauce, puree or jam, though using it in a curry or as a preparation for a meat dish is also a sure way of experiencing its intensity.
2. Trinidad Moruga Scorpion (1,200,000 - 2,000,000 SHU)
The Trinidad scorpion chilli from the district of Moruga is, on average, about as hot as the hottest Butch Ts and can be nearly twice as hot.
It's a sweet heat, with a slow but lengthy build, meaning people may take a bite and think they're fine only to be in serious pain within a minute or so.
These chillis can be found on YouTube, a lot, as challenge and reaction videos. It would be a bad idea to repeat anything these people do unless you're experienced at eating super-hot chillis. Even if you're known for your gut-cleansing Tom Yum soup - these things can injure you.
1. Carolina Reaper (1,500,000-2,200,000 SHU)
As of August 2013, this is the hottest stable strain of chillis currently being cultivated. It has a beautiful red colour to it with a rough surface and a 'long sting'.
Unlike the previous two record holders, this isn't a crossbreed or variety of the Trinidad scorpion. The Carolina Reaper is actually a crossbreed of the ghost chilli and red habanero. The reaper is cultivated by Ed Currie of PickerButt Pepper company in his greenhouse in South Carolina - hence the name.
The average reaper is hotter than all previous record holders but for the moruga, while the peak level makes it easy to see why it's held the record as long as it has.
This is now the go-to for extreme chilli-eating competitions, with the world record for eating three reapers set at a frightening 10.95 seconds.
If you want examples of what happens when you eat these, go to YouTube - describing it in words may not suffice. Suffice to say: extreme pain, hallucinations and days of intestinal distress will follow eating one.
Where to get it: Smokin' Ed from PuckerButt Peppers of course.
How to use it: Smokin' Ed puts it like this - "Uses include hot sauces, salsas, cooking, settling old scores and combat." APN would like to point out that the latter two options are illegal and a bad idea.
Want to know how to grow these monsters of the kitchen yourself?
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