From barbecuing the raw meat during the Stone-age to peppering the meatloaf over the instructions of AI, our curiosity has penetrated every layer of food right down to its Atomic level, revealing every chemical component of taste.
Among all the ingredients that make up a good recipe, the discovery of Chillies could be one of the most important milestones in the history of food.
A Peek inside Chilli’s Storehouse of Spice!
Many carry a misconception that it’s the seeds in Chilli that is responsible for the spiciness, but the fact is it’s the inner membrane and the ribs, the portion that divides the chilli into compartments, that gives chillies its so-called spicy taste.
The spiciness of chillies is a result of a chemical compound called Capsaicin. It’s the measure of the concentration of Capsaicinoids, or simply capsaicin, and other related chemical compounds, that indicates how spicy a chilli is.
“Are you ready to burn your Taste-buds?”
You’re in? Here is a task! Taste the chilli and report its spiciness. Sounds easy! What if the Chilli under test comes up as the Hottest Chilli in the world?
Long back when experiments in Science were done by a handful of curiosity-stricken people, there is a possibility that experiments like this were conducted using the minimum available resources.
Is this how we got it done?
Not exactly, but a somewhat related method was developed that demanded tasting Capsaicin solutions. To make the method more acceptable, the Capsaicin compounds were dissolved in a sugar solution, in a gradually decreasing Capsaicin concentrations, till the point where the solution has no heat or pungency in it as tasted by a group of trained tasters.
The Man behind The Method!
Wilbur Scoville! Was he the one who sacrificed his Taste buds? Probably yes! This American pharmacist, in 1912, developed a method called the Scoville organoleptic test that utilized a scale called the Scoville scale to measure the heat or pungency in Chillies.
The method he developed involved measuring the heat of chillies, or any other spicy foods, in Scoville Heat Units (SHU), which is the measure of the function of Capsaicin concentration.
Do we still use the method?
No! I am sorry Scoville, but the method wasn’t reliable for obvious reason, Humans as a test subject. Thus, the result varied widely among people with a variation of almost ∓ 40 to 50% between different labs.
Today, a chromatographic method called High-Performance Liquid chromatography (HPLC) is being used to measure the pungency.
Meet the Hottest Chilli in the World!
Time to sum-up by mentioning about the classic Ghost chilli or Bhut jolokia, cultivated in North-eastern states of India that holds 2007’s Guinness World Record as the World’s Hottest Chilli Pepper.
But the record was soon broken by the Infinity chilli, then Naga Viper, then the Trinidad moruga scorpion and finally by Carolina Reaper that holds the latest record.
Ghost Chilli – Asit K. ghosh Thaumaturgist
Carolina Reaper – ukchilliseeds.co.uk