Throughout history, there really haven’t been that many great people named Wilbur. If I had to really think about, though, there may be a few. Let’s see…there’s the greatest Wilbur of all time, Wilbur Wright. He, along with his brother, were the first people to have sustained powered flight in 1903…..IN THE AIR!!!!. Oh, and his brother may be the most famous person ever named, Orville. However, that’s a debate best saved for my popcorn blog. I suppose next would be that dude who owned Mr. Ed. It’s a little before my time but there are few people who have never heard that wonderful speaking equine saying, “Hello Wilburrrrrrrrr.” Oh, sixties comedy, how I love thee.
And I suppose that’s it for all the……wait a minute. How could I forget the most important Wilbur of all time as he pertains to our world? Wilbur Scoville. The man, the myth and the legend. The very gustatory gladiator who, ironically in 1912, came up with a scale that measures the heat in peppers. The scale starts at 0 units with the likes of the sweet bell and sweet banana pepper and goes up to the dreaded Ghost pepper which comes in at over 1,000,000 Scoville units.
The chemical that causes the “heat” is called Capsaicin, which you may recognize from anti inflamatory creams used for joint pain. The capsaicin is what causes the heat and thus the pain relief. This spicy chemical is present mostly in the ribs and seeds of hot peppers; if you’re looking for a little less burn, just scrape those bits out and use the outer flesh for a slightly cooler sensation. Additionally, eating foods containing capsaicin has been known to increase metabolism, and thus, aide in weight loss. Heat is a great way to add flavor to food without additional calories. This does not count if you are eating Buffalo wings.
As I got thinking more and more about peppers and heat, I felt that I wasn’t being true if I didn’t try some of the peppers from all parts of the Scoville Scale. With that said, today, I went out and bought six different peppers, all with different Scoville rankings. I set out with the goal of trying all of them and relaying the experience to you readers. (Note: Ally does not eat spicy food. She did not want to “burn her freaking tongue off,” so she will be my trusty photographer and milk pourer.)
Interestly enough, milk is the best remedy for heat-overload. Casein, a protein found in dairy products, has a detergent effect on capsaicin. Too heavy on the hot sauce? Head to the dairy aisle.
Second was a hot cherry pepper, also called a pimento, which comes in around 500 on the scale. Again, I was surprised by the heat. I guess I was expecting nothing, but I was very pleased with the flavor and the heat level. I should also say that I ate larger pieces of these peppers. At this point, I was beginning to question my ability to eat spicy food and was fearing the peppers that were coming up. Oh well…I’m a guy. I can eat anything.
Next was an Anaheim Chile. Or is it a California Chile or is it a Los Angeles Chile? No, it’s a Los Angeles Chile of Anaheim (any baseball fans out there?) Anyway, this pepper can have anywhere from 500-2500 Scoville units. I ate a rather large piece of this pepper and was blown away by the LACK of heat. I assumed that we picked up a small bell pepper by mistake, and I offered the rest to Ally. (Ally loves snacks.) She happily popped the pepper into her mouth and….it was an Anaheim Chile after all. Bad news.
I’m sorry that I doubted you, anonymous produce section worker. I’m sorry you burned your freaking tongue, Ally.
The fourth pepper was a Jalapeno. A largely popular nacho accoutrement, I’ve been eating jalapenos forever…or so I thought. I cut myself a nice healthy slice and chewed vigorously. We’ll just say it was too big of a slice. I immediately began to sweat profusely, my mouth feeling like Phoenix in August. I had to chug a large glass of milk and let myself cool down before I moved onto the Serrano that awaited me.
After recovering completely, I stepped up to the plate, facing all 22,000 Scoville units in the Serrano Chile. Knowing this, I cut a small piece, but all the while making sure to eat some of the spicy seeds. I was pleasantly surprised by the taste and the perceived mild heat. It definitely burned at the back of my throat which was a new sensation, but not bad enough for me to go to the milk. Score for manliness.
All that was left was the Red Habanero. I cut a tiny piece of this guy, knowing that 285,000 Scoville units might do some damage. I thought the pepper itself would contain enough heat, but I was mistaken. I wanted to show you the full effect so I went back and ate a seed. Just one….but the damage was done. I’m fine now, but I can’t imagine eating more than one, maybe two of those seeds. The heat was incredible and all around my mouth and throat. It’s definitely not a sensation that I enjoyed or want to experience again.
So that’s the end of my battle with the peppers. For now, I’m going to avoid touching my eyes and other areas, and relax with an Iron City….Pittsburgh’s official brew. I hope you guys enjoyed today’s post because I went through some pain for it. For more information on hot peppers, check out this great site:
Do you like spicy foods? Hit me with your best spicy food stories!