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Why are some peppers hot and some not?


What makes peppers have different amounts of spiciness?

3405 day(s) ago

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Larry
People have been eating peppers for over 9,000 years and people first domesticated peppers 6,000 years ago. Peppers have long been loved not only for the flavor, but for their spiciness. There are three basic groups of peppers: bell, sweet, and hot. All of them originated in the Americas and were first brought to Europe and Asia by the Spanish.

Peppers are hot because they contain a chemical called capsaicin and related chemicals called capsaicinoids. Capsaicin acts by binding with nerve receptors generally used to transmit heat and heat-related pain in the body. The only reason why some peppers are hotter than others is because the hotter peppers contain higher concentrations of capsaicin. Bell peppers contain no capsaicin at all. Sweet peppers contain very small amounts of capsaicin. Chili peppers and other hot peppers contain large amounts of capsaicin.

The heat of peppers is measured on a special scale invented in 1912 by a chemist named Wilbur Scoville. His measurement seemed adequate for its purpose and so the world adopted the Scoville Heat Unit to determine the hotness of peppers. On one end of the scale, bell peppers have zero Scoville units since they have no capsaicin. Jalepeno peppers, a relatively hot variety, measures from 2,500 to 8,000 Scoville units. The world record for the hottest pepper goes to a variety called the Naga jolokia, or ghost pepper, from India. This pepper can reach 1 million Scoville units. The pepper spray used by police and for self-defense measures from 2 million to 5.3 million Scoville units, and pure capsaicin is 16 million Scoville units.


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