(Roughly) Daily

Chile today, hot tamale!…

 

In 2007, the Naga Bhut Joloki or “Ghost chile” was named the hottest pepper on earth. Then in 2010 the Naga Viper stole the title. And in 2012 the Trinidad Scorpion Moruga Blend moved into the lead. And for good reason.

The Scorpion ranks at round 2 million heat units on the Scoville scale. (For comparison, tabasco sauce has 2,500–5,000 Scoville heat units or SHU.) What exactly does that mean? When the scale was invented in 1912 by pharmacist Wilbur Scoville in search of a heat-producing ointment, it was based on human taste buds. The idea was to dilute an alcohol-based extract made with the given pepper until it no longer tasted hot to a group of taste testers. The degree of dilution translates to the SHU. In other words, according to the Scoville scale, you would need as many as 5,000 cups of water to dilute 1 cup of tobacco sauce enough to no longer taste the heat.

And while the Scoville scale is still widely used, says Dr. Paul Bosland, professor of horticulture at New Mexico State University and author or several books on chile peppers, it no longer relies on the fallible human taste bud…

For the reason “Ghost chile” is so named– and for more about the valiant folks who ponder peppers for our protection, the techniques they use, and links to the Chile Pepper Institute (at New Mexico State University), where readers can acquire a nifty chile tasting wheel— see “How Hot is That Pepper? Unpacking the Scoville Scale.”

[photo: “WhisperToMe“]

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As we remind ourselves that water doesn’t quell the heat, it spreads it, we might recall that it was on this date in 1556 that the deadliest earthquake in history (and the third deadliest natural disaster in history) occurred in Shaanxi Province, China; it killed an estimated 830,000 people.  Modern estimates, based on geological data, give the earthquake a magnitude of approximately 7.9-8 on the moment magnitude scale (the successor to the Richter scale).  Its epicenter was in the Wei River Valley, near the cities of Huaxian, Weinan and Huayin.  In Huaxian, every single building and home was demolished, killing more than half the residents of the city.

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Written by LW

January 23, 2013 at 1:01 am

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