Kung Pao Peppers
I was talking to some friends about how our garden is doing – we have seven different kinds of peppers going right now, including four hot varieties, so I’m listing them here for our, and their, reference. I’m sure when they’re ripe, they’re going to be prolific, so make your requests now 😉
The number after the pepper type is its measure on the Scoville scale, which measures the hotness of a pepper. The scale goes from 0 for sweet bell peppers to 15-16 million for pure capsaicin, which is the chemical that supplies the heat in a hot pepper. In 2006, the habanero pepper, with a Scoville range of 350,000–580,000 for heat, was overtaken by a new variety: the Bhut Jolokia from India, with a Scoville range of 855,000–1,041,427. That’s scary hot.
By the way, “hot” and “spicy” are not the same thing; hot is heat (duh) and spicy has a lot of spices in it. Spices are the dried seeds, fruits, roots, bark and other parts of plants (not including the leaves, which are herbs); examples are cumin seed, peppercorns, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and saffron. So food can be spicy but not hot.
- Anaheim – 500–2,500
- Cayenne – 30,000–50,000
- Jalapeno – 2,500–8,000
- Kung Pao – 7,000-12,000
- Pimento – 100-500
- Sweet bells – 0
- Tabasco – 30,000–50,000
Here’s a hot tip (groan 😉 ): If you eat something that’s too hot from chiles, drinking water, beer or wine won’t help. Capsaicin is not water-soluble, so those beverages won’t reduce the heat at all. Instead, have some dairy ready, maybe as a dip or sauce – milk, sour cream or yogurt will counter the heat.
Chile peppers are an ancient crop that originated in what is now Mexico and South America. After European explorers found the Western Hemisphere, peppers spread around the world and now are found in cuisines everywhere. There’s lots more information on chile peppers at the Chile Pepper Institute, a program of New Mexico State University.