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Chillies and their Spiciness

Chillies are an inseparable constituent of any cooked vegetable and meats. The spiciness adds to the taste of vegetables and meats. It is also a fact that chillies are very rich in vitamin C, Magnesium, vitamin B6, iron, and potassium and have very good health benefits.Degree of spiciness or the heat of a chilli will be directly proportional to its capsaicin content. The sensation also masks the taste of other chemicals present in the chillies for a while.

The Scoville scale is a measurement of pungency (spiciness or “heat”) of chili peppers and other substances, recorded in Scoville heat units (SHU), based on the concentration of capsaicinoids, among which capsaicin is the predominant component. Capsaicin is a chemical which is an irritant and neurotoxins for animals including humans. It induces a burning sensation in the tissue which comes in its contact.

The chillies should be enjoyed in the other recipes not by themselves. Ingesting the chillies with very high SHU will induce sweating, nausea, watery eyes and vomiting. If ingested and reaction is too much, then drinking cold milk is the solution to alleviate the condition. Water on the other hand spreads the capsaicin and causes more problems.

Scoville heat units have been measured of almost all the chilli peppers occuring around the world. Bell Peppers which don’t have any capsaicin in them are sir at Zero or the bottom of the scale. Extreme hot chillies are Carolina Reaper, Trinidad Moruga Scorpion and 7 pot douglah having SHU values around 1.5 to 2.2 million. You can imagine how hot these are when Jalapenos with SHU around 2000 to 8000 feel so fiery for us. While many varities with extreme heat are naturally growing some are being genetically modified.

In India the extreme hot variety is Naga chilli also called Bhoot Jhalokia found in the North East states of Assam and Nagaland. From the chart you can see that their SHU is around 1 million.

Full scale of many chillies is given in the following chart taken from the website Scoville Scale.

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