MEASURING PUNGENCY OF HOT PEPPERS: THE SCOVILLE SCALE

Is there any measure of hotness? *cough* We are talking about chilies! The Scoville Heat Scale is used to measure the hotness of chili peppers and the derivatives of chili peppers, such as hot sauce. Its unit is SHU.

How does the Scoville Heat Chart measure chili heat?

The hotness of chili comes from Capsaicin. You can read more about Capsaicin in our blog, ‘What Makes the Peppers Hot?’Capsaicin reacts with our body’s sensory neurons and produces heat sensation. The Scoville Heat Scale measures the heat of chilies by comparing the quantity of Capsaicin in it.

The Scoville Heat Unit represents the hotness of a chili genre in variation or range. This is because one type of chili may have different agricultural variations, and hence different heat variations. The heat of chili is affected by the type of agricultural land, type of seeds, environmental effects, hours of sunlight exposure, moisture, type of fertilizers, cross agriculture, etc. For instance, the 10-fold variations in habaneros pepper are not unknown.

How did the Scoville Heat Scale originate?

Wilbur L. Scoville (1856–1942) created the Scoville Heat Scale. The heat of chili is determined by following Wilbur L. Scoville’s designed Scoville Organoleptic Test (Park Davis Pharmaceutical Company, 1912). The standard practice of conducting the test is to dissolve the chili extract in sugar and water solution until at least five tasters cannot sense the chili heat. The degree of dilution is used to determine the measure of heat on the Scoville Heat Scale. Today, modern techniques, such as High Pressure Liquid Chromatography are also used to determine the proportion of Capsaicin in chili peppers.

Is Scoville Heat Scale Useful?

The Scoville Heat Scale has been used to determine the hotness of a wide range of chili peppers. Red Savina Habanero was the world’s hottest chili pepper until 2007, with 350,000–570,000 SHU. In 2007, Ghost Pepper, also known as Bhut Jolokia, was claimed to be the world’s hottest chili pepper – at least twice as hot as Red Savina Habanero. It was cultivated in New Mexico State University. Trinidad Scorpion Butch T Pepper, Trinidad Moruga Scorpion, Komodo Dragon Chili Pepper, Noaga Morich, Dragon’s Breath, Spanish Naga Chili, and Infinity Chili fall in the same range i.e. 855,000–2,480,000 SHU. Our favorite jalapeno pepper has a 2,500–5,000 SHU hotness score.

We can’t really measure love, but we can measure chili heat – and what’s better than spicy food?

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