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Scoville Scale – How the heat in peppers is measured

Aged Hot Sauce, scotch bonnet hot sauce, best hot sauce uk, home made hot sauce
Hot Sauce Scoville Scale
Ghost Pepper Image by jim CARNAHAN from Pixabay

In around 1912 Wilbur Scoville a chemist working for Parke Davis a US pharmaceutical company, designed a way to show the heat delivered by different peppers. He created a method (  “Scoville Organoleptic Test” ) to judge heat of peppers by diluting them until the affects were no longer noticeable, and then measuring how much dilution he used. He is also the first person to point out that milk mollifies the heat. He won numerous awards for his work. Based on that test pure Capsaicin the actual substance within peppers that causes the burn is 16m units and a bell pepper or sweet pepper is 0. The pepper in the image above is the ghost pepper from India with 1m units. See more information at LINK

A recently published report by Harvard University about the origin of heat in peppers throws light on the origin of hot sauce scoville scale heat.

It amazed me that all the pepper lovers in the world only got what they love, by a tiny change that a primitive early ancestor of peppers made to protect itself from attack by predators.

Capsaicin – the basis of Hot Sauce Scoville Scale

It seems that there are two factors at work in the make up of the peppers chemistry, one is that rodents eat peppers and love them and they have such fine teeth they eat the seeds to the point they cannot germinate whereas birds eat the flesh and drop the seeds. So the plant developed a small metabolic change to create capsaicin the heat in peppers as the birds don’t taste the heat but rats do, so this deterred the rats. Pepper plants are also attacked by insects that suck the juices, and this defence also deters them.

The second is mould. Now peppers grow in moist environments and are very prone to mould and fungus, which attacks the buds and stops the peppers growing. Capsaicin deters mould and fungus so stops that attack as well. At Ooft! we notice this as when we age our peppers over two to three years, not only do we notice no deterioration, but laboratory analysis confirms that the peppers stay pure which explains our two year shelf life.

The article points out that the peppers pay a price for the defence. Producing the complex molecules for heat weakens the plants water retention capability and pepper plants with heat are much less resistant to drought than sweet peppers. Its a trade off they have made over time, but are we not so grateful. Without this development we would not have our hot sauce scoville scale.

Our thoughts on Heat from Peppers

LINK TO ARTICLE on how peppers protect themselves from attack.

Many chilli sauces boast of their heat but here at Ooft! we do not join that crowd at all. Our sauce is around 300,000 units on the Hot Sauce Scoville Scale but what we curate and care about is the flavour, the fruity unique taste of the scotch bonnet pepper. Although the scale is useful as a crude gauge it is meaningless when applied to individuals. So for one person 5,000 units of a Jalapeno might cause them to sneeze and their eyes to run for another it’s just not hot. Everyone has different tolerances. Thrill List a blog gives a nice glimpse into this world of chilli eaters LINK

To try our pepper sauces and get not just the burn but also the aged rich taste of the worlds finest chilli’s click below to buy

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