How Hot is It?  

   Written by on June 20, 2014 at 8:38 am

Yes indeedy, it’s hot outside, record breaking actually for this time of year. Sleeping with the windows open is over for a while, even if you have been able to stand the pollen blowing around.

logo - a walkSo, more hot to talk about. Peppers. It won’t be long before those sweet little plants in the garden begin to bear fruit and, depending on what you’ve chosen, you could be in for a hot treat. I know it’s a little late to make choices about which peppers to plant, but you will see lots of different kinds at vegetable stands and in the grocery store.

Our first thought when it comes to peppers would be the green ones, the bell peppers that we all use in salads and stuff with rice and hamburger. Sweet, crunchy, ordinary. And then there are the really hot spicy ones. As a rule, the hottest peppers are long and cylindrical, but there are some bell and barrel-shaped. Beware!

The stinging hot sensation released by peppers is caused by a compound called capsaicin, and, generally, the smaller the pepper, the higher its concentration of capsaicin. There is actually a rating chart to measure the hotness of peppers, called the Scoville chart, named after the brave soul that made it up. Following is a short list of how peppers measure up.

Mild peppers, which on the Scoville scale still deliver a little bite, include the pasilla, which is 7 – 12” long and is a dark purplish-brown when ripe. It is mainly used in salsas. The poblano is a dark red pepper good for omlettes and salsa.

Medium peppers are the real workhorses of the pepper family, being the most popular and not hot enough to set your tongue on fire. Be wary though; some cooks can go overboard.

One of the most readily available is the serrano pepper. Once you learn about this pepper you’ll use it often, but remember that it can come in a variety of colors: red, brown, orange or yellow.

Fully grown it is only one to four inches long and half an inch in diameter. Serranos are on the hotter end of the medium group but not quite scorching. They are a little too hot for most people but deliver a nice bite.

Jalapenos are very familiar, used on everything from pizza to salads. Again, those little guys can be deadly.  Here’s an interesting one for you : the cascabel pepper. When dried, the cascabel’s seeds rattle around in its hard outer shell and is actually used as a musical instrument.

All right, the hot list. I give you this list so that there will be no unnecessary scar tissue created. These peppers, unless you grew up eating them, should be roasted, chopped up in a sauce, or otherwise diluted. Watch out for penguin, cayenne, aji, and tobasco peppers. Some of these, owing to their firey nature, are used only as a spice.

The hottest of the hot, the throw-out-the-dog-and-call-the-fire-department list begins with what is known as the hottest pepper in the world: the naga jolokia. It has a Scoville rating of over one million – that’s 1,000,000 (serranos rate 23,000). They are mostly found in India and Bangladesh and used as a dried, ground spice. Not to be mistaken for the habanero.

Habanero peppers are shaped like an inverted teardrop and come in lots of colors ranging from orange to red to brown and even pink. Three inches long and two inches wide, the habanero is almost as well known as the jalapeno but carries a much sterner heat warning. The habanero carries a Scoville rating of 350,000.

Okay, take a dare. Eat one raw. Touch one to your tongue. Just don’t rub your eyes.

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