Chillies are a delightful specie of fruit that challenges our taste buds to its limits. They are graded according to the ‘Scoville scale,’ named after an American pharmacist Wilbur Scoville, who in 1912, attempted to measure the level of capsaicin in a variety of chilli peppers. Capsaicin is the chemical compound that produces that characteristic heat sensation in the mouth. Pure capsaicin is an explosive 16 million Scoville Heat Units (SHU). Although there are several listings of the hottest chillies, I have compiled an approximate concurrence list, from the least to the most insufferable chillies:
That well-known condiment, Tabasco sauce, scores 2,500-5,000 SHU. Around this level is also to be found the jalapeño, apparently named after the Mexican town of Xalapa, where it originated, which can range from 2,500-10,000 SHU.
The serrano pepper originated in the mountainous regions of the Mexican states of Puebla and Hidalgo. The name of the pepper is a reference to the mountains or sierras of these regions. The Scoville rating of the serrano pepper is 10,000 to 25,000 SHU.
Staying in the kitchen, but on a much higher shelf – Scoville-speaking – is cayenne pepper, which registers at 30,000-50,000 SHU.
That staple of Thai and Keralan cooking, the Bird’s Eye Chilli, meanwhile, clocks in at 50,000-100,000 SHU. Personally, our taste buds conflagrated at this level.
Caribbean cuisine, by contrast, favours the Scotch Bonnet, known in Guyana as ‘Ball of Fire.’ Similarly fiery is the magnificently named Madame Jeanette, a small but fiery reddish-yellow bell pepper from Suriname at 100,000-350,000 SHU.
The Red Savina pepper has been developed from the well-known habanero chilli, to produce hotter fruit. Characterised by a deep red colour, it registers between 250,000 and 450,000 SHU.
If you are travelling in Northeast India or Bangladesh, be very careful if anyone tries to tempt you with a curry containing the Bhut Jokolia. It’s also known as the ‘Ghost Pepper’ which is what you’ll feel like after tasting it, as it is rated at over 1 million SHU.
The Trinidad Moruga Scorpion is a golf-ball-sized beast that has been identified as one of the world’s hottest cultivated chilli pepper. Despite its initially sweet taste, the fire builds and builds, and can rate as high as 2 million SHU.
At the top of the chilli tree is the exceptionally hot Carolina Reaper. It has been rated as the world’s hottest chili pepper by Guinness World Records since August 7, 2013. The original crossbreed was between a ghost pepper (a former world record holder) and a red habanero, it averages a 1,569,300 on the Scoville scale, peaking over 2,200,000 SHU.
Credits: The Telegraph, Wikipedia.