Posts Tagged ‘scoville scale’

14th April
written by Arthur


Why is a jalapeño hot?  Why is a habanero hotter than a jalapeño?  What are these scovilles that Loren and Arthur keep taking about?

The magic of heat comes from capsaicin, the chemical compound in chilies that makes them hot.  This stuff creates actual burning.  It’s not a flavor (like sweet or sour) but an irritation of the skin.  If you took pure capsaicin and left it on your skin, not only would it hurt like hell, but it would cause blistering after 30 seconds or so.

Plants evolved capsaicin to deter us mammals from eating certain plants.  More particularly, to stop us chomping down on plant seeds and making them unable to germinate.  Unlike mammals, birds aren’t irritated by capsaicin.  Not so coincidental, birds also don’t smash seeds when they eat them–leaving the seeds able to germinate when they later poop them out.  The evolutionary pressures for developing hotness is clear.

Some chilies have become atomic, while others have a light burn.  We measure heat on the scoville scale.  A nice jalapeño comes in between 1,500 and 8,000 scovilles, a good habanero clocks in at about 250,000, and the insane ghost pepper comes in around a 1,000,000.  Pure capsaicin destroys mind and body with 16,000,000 scovilles.

Enjoy the burn!