Some Like It Hot

Maybe you like chilli peppers or maybe you don’t?

After all the heat from a chilli can vary from a slight tingle to a thermonuclear detonation.

There are hundreds of varieties of chilli pepper. They vary in size, shape, colour and heat.

Unripe chilli peppers are green and ripe are red, orange, yellow or even black.

Chilli peppers contain a chemical called ‘capsaicin’. It is found in the membrane holding the seeds together and anchoring them within the chilli pod.

The capsaicin binds to a receptor in the lining of the mouth. This is the same receptor that registers pain from heat, thus the effect is a burning feeling – more capsaicin, more pain.

The distressed mouth receptor also causes the brain to release endorphins. The effect is similar to what happens to extreme sports athletes.

Unfortunately it is difficult to tell how hot a chilli is just by looking at it.

Generally small chilli peppers (such as Bird’s Eye) with the seeds in are very hot and large chilli peppers with the seeds removed are milder.

How come some chilli peppers merely tickle your tongue while others blow the roof off your head?

In 1912, a chemist called Dr. Wilbur Scoville investigated this phenomena and developed a chilli heat measurement.

The test, officially called the ‘Scoville Scale’, measures the level of  capsaicin in different varieties of peppers.

The greater the number of Scoville Units (SU) found, the hotter the pepper.

Here’s the chilli heat scale:

Variety Scoville Unit (SU)
Capsicum 0
Cherry Pepper 100-500
New Mexico 500-1,000
Ancho 1,000-1,500
Poblano 1,500-2,500
Jalapeno 2,500-5,000
Chilcostle 5,000-10,000
Cayenne 10,000-30,000
Birds-eye 30,000-50,000
Chiltepin 50,000-80,000
Habanero 80,000-300,000
Pure Capsaicin 16,000,000 (used in tear gas)

The ‘Red Savina’ Habanero has been tested at over 577,000 Scoville units. That is 10 times hotter than the common Birds-eye.

Guinness Book Of World Records lists it as the world’s hottest chilli.

After stupidly consuming this little firecracker, you’re likely to wake up dazed and confused from a two-week coma, aboard a Russian submarine with no recollection of how you got there! 

Easy Spicy Tomato Sauce

  • 400g can chopped tomatoes
  • 100ml sweet chilli sauce
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1  long red chilli, seeded, chopped
  1. Combine all the ingredients in a small saucepan.
  2. Bring to a simmer over low heat and cook for 10 minutes until thickened.
  3. Season to taste and cool.
  4. Pulse in a food processor to puree.

Keeps in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

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