Scoville scale

Scoville scale

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Spicy or not

Scoville scale is a method used to measure the heat or spiciness of a chili pepper or a dish containing chili peppers. The scale ranges from 0 (no heat) to over 2 million (extremely hot) Scoville heat units (SHU).

The Scoville scale is named after its creator, American pharmacist Wilbur Scoville, who developed the test in 1912.

The heat of a chili pepper is determined by measuring the concentration of capsaicin, the chemical compound responsible for the spiciness. The more capsaicin, the hotter the chili pepper.

Sweet Pepper

Why are peppers spicy?

Have you ever wondered why chili peppers are spicy? Well, it turns out that the spice actually serves a purpose! Capsaicin is produced by the plant to protect itself from predators like mammals and harmful microbes. A study showed that when a particular fusarium fungus carried by insects attacked the chili pepper's seeds, the plant increased its production of capsaicin to defend itself. So, next time you take a bite of that spicy pepper, remember it's all for self-defense!

Capsaicin is the active component responsible for the heat or spiciness in chili peppers. It is an alkaloid chemical compound found mostly in the placenta of the chili pepper plant but also in the internal membranes and, to a lesser extent, the other fleshy parts of the fruits of plant. And did you know that the seeds themselves don't actually produce any capsaicin? The highest concentration of it can be found in the white pith on the inner wall of the pepper, where the seeds attach.

When ingested, capsaicin stimulates a pain receptor in the mouth and throat that is responsible for detecting heat, causing the sensation of spiciness. Capsaicin is not only used food but also in many products, including self-defense sprays and topical pain relievers.

- It's always a good idea to be careful when handling spicy peppers! The capsaicin in the fruit can quickly irritate your skin, giving you a burning sensation, and if it gets in contact with sensitive areas like your eyes, it can even cause damage. So, it's recommended to wear gloves when handling these spicy delights. Handle with care!

chili pepper fruits

A guide to popular pepper varieties spiciness

Here are some well-known chili pepper varieties and their approximate Scoville unit measurements:

  • Bell pepper: 0-100 SHU

  • Poblano: 1,000-2,000 SHU

  • Jalapeño: 2,500-8,000 SHU

  • Serrano: 10,000-25,000 SHU

  • Cayenne and Tabasco: 30,000-50,000 SHU

  • Thai chili: 50,000-100,000 SHU

  • Habanero: 100,000-350,000 SHU

  • Scotch Bonnet: 100,000-350,000 SHU

  • Ghost pepper (Bhut Jolokia): 855,000-1,041,427 SHU

  • Carolina Reaper: 1,400,000-2,200,000 SHU - holds the record for being the worlds hottest chili pepper!

- It's worth noting that the exact Scoville measurement can vary depending on growing conditions, ripeness, harvest time, and other factors, so these are rough estimates.

paprika capsicum pepper plant

Bell peppers, not so hot...