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Stuff You Missed in Botany: Scoville Scale

Stuff You Missed in Botany: Scoville Scale

Some like it hot and some sweat when the heat is on...”~Robert Palmer (via Duran Duran)

This pepper is hot. But what does that mean? Hot when it comes to the spiciness of a pepper is subjective, right? I mean, two serranos in a Thai stir-fry is approaching the right “heat” for my son, but has me running for the milk and an alternative meal. Subjective.

If only there were some way to quantify the spiciness of a pepper without relying on the conjecture of an individuals palate. Thank you Wilbur Scoville.

In 1912, Wilbur Scoville devised a method called the Scoville Organoleptic Test, giving us a scale that measures the capsaicinoid content of a substance. In other words, how “hot” something is depends on how much capsaicin is in it.


So, what’s not and what’s hot?

The scale is pretty straightforward. If a pepper has a lot of capsaicin, it’s hot. If it has less capsaicin, it’s mild. Here is a nicely colored picture available from http://hottestseeds.com

Scoville scale

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