What Makes Peppers Hot?
The substance in chilies that makes them spicy is called capsaicin. It is concentrated in the veins of the fruit (not the seeds), known as the placental membrane and stimulates the nerve endings in your mouth, fooling your brain into thinking you’re in pain. The brain responds by releasing substances called endorphins, which are similar in structure to morphine. A mild euphoria results, and chilies can be mildly addictive because of this hot pepper “high.”
Chile hotness is rated in Scoville units, which is a system developed by Wilbur Scoville in 1912. It was first a subjective taste test, but since has been refined to a general industry standard in honor of its inventor. The hottest pepper on record is the Moruga “Scorpion” from Trinidad, which has been gaining popularity among distributors worldwide. Still, at 2-million SHU, the heat of this monster is so extreme, practical uses in cooking are all but impossible. By contrast, the lowly Jalapeño comes in at about 5,000 to 15,000 Scoville heat units.
Please note that measurements shown are approximate, as the heat can vary from pepper to pepper (even ones picked from the same plant.) Generally, the more arid the climate and soil conditions, the hotter the pod.
|Country / Region
|Trinidad Moruga Scorpion||2,000,000+||Trinidad, West Indies|
|Bih/Bhut Jolokia (Ghost)||1,000,000+||Northeast India
|Red Savina||350-550,000||Central America|
|Habañero/Scotch Bonnet||150-300,000||Yucatan Province, Mexico|
|Thai||70-80,000||South Asia, Thailand|
|Chiltepin||70-80,000||Northern Mexico, Southwest USA|
|Tabasco||30-50,000||Avery Island, Louisiana|
|Cayenne||30-40,000||Central, South America, West Indies|
|Chile de Arbol||15-30,000||Central America, Mexico|
|Jalapeño and Chipotle||6-10,000||Central America, Mexico|
|Bell Pepper||0||Mexico, USA|