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Interesting Chili Facts

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The world of chillies – General facts and background information

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Lovers of the special hot pepper can find out plenty of interesting trivia about the chili here – where it originally comes from, the story of it victory march around the world, background information about its spicy heat, the component capsaicin and how the Scoville scale works.

Chili origins

Chillies are the most commonly used spice in the whole world. They originally come from Central and South America, where they have been grown and farmed since before the Mayan era. After the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus, the chili set forth with the sailors on its victory march all around the world. Today, 5 cultivated types of chili are mainly used for farming, which have in turn produced over 3,000 different varieties.

Spicy heat – capsaicin

What makes the chili so hot is the capsaicin, an alkaloid which collects in the chili pepper’s placenta glands (the pale membranes where the seeds hang from). This substance affects mammal’s heat receptors, thus also enacting a deception for humans too – it reduces the pain threshold for temperature so that temperatures below 37°C are also perceived as burning hot.

Spice levels – measuring in Scoville heat units

In order to establish a scientific means of comparing different degrees of spiciness, chemist Wilbur Scoville developed a test in 1912, whereby a tincture of chili was diluted so much until multiple testers could not detect any more spicy heat. The degree of dilution was then defined as a unit of measure, which was called the Scoville heat unit, or SHU. Today, spicy heat is measured using more precise chemical analysis methods known as high performance liquid chromatography.

The hottest chillies in the world

The Carolina Reaper currently holds the record of being the world’s hottest chili. Its average spice rating as tested by the Chile Pepper Institute was 1,569,300 Scoville heat units, while individual specimens reached up to 2.2 million SHU. Previous world record holder include the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion, the Trinidad Scorpion Butch Taylor , the bhut jolokia and the red savina habanero.

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Interesting Chili Facts

The world of chillies – General facts and background information

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Know-How
Chili Types Chili Types
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