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Category: Fun Chili Facs

Anatomy of a Chili Pepper

Chili is derived from the term chil given by the Arawak indians who were the ones that first cultivated it. When Columbus first discovered the chili, he brought it back to Spain where they add the ‘e’ to it. Chili is the oldest spice in the world with archaeological specimens being found that dated to as far back to 7,000 B.C. in New Mexico.

Today, there are many variety of chili peppers including color, degree of spiciness, and shapes. Chili not only add spiciness to the food but it is also rich in antioxidant and rich in vitamin A and C. The anatomy of a chili pepper is comprises of many parts including peduncle, calyx, capsaicin glands, placenta, exocarp, mesocarp, endocarp, seed and apex.

chili anatomy

Peduncle is the short branch on top of the pepper that remains when you harvest it from the plant.

Calyx is the green crown on top of the fruit where the penduncle is attach to. It is the remnant of the flower that has already transformed into the fruit. Preserving the calyx can keep the fruit fresher for a longer time.

Capsaicin glands is the central seed stem inside of the pepper that is joined to the placenta near the top. It is located in between the placenta and endocarp. Many people wrongly presumed that the seeds are responsible for producing the capsaicin glands.

Placenta is the round part on top where the seeds are attached to.

Exocarp is the outermost layer of the pepper which comprises the skin.

Mesocarp is the fleshy part under the skin of the pepper which is also called exocarp.

Endocarp is the inner membrane layer that surrounds the seeds.

The seed inside the pepper has low level of moisture but a high level of lecithin. Chili pepper seeds are edible. However, most people will prefer to discard the seeds as they are hard to chew and do not add any spicy flavor to the cooking. The seeds are hot but they are not the hottest part. The white pith or rib that hold the seeds and the part that connect to the shoulder are believed to be the hottest part. The white pith is about 100 times hotter that the pepper flesh.

Apex is the bottom tip of the pepper fruit. The apex and peduncle are two areas that have the least capsaicin so biting these areas first will be less hotter.

When preparing chili pepper, you may want to wear a pair of glove to prevent the capsaicin oil from coming in contact to your skin. The capsaicin oil in the pepper can burn your skin and cause blistering. If your skin get burned, you can apply some white vinegar to sooth it. Skin burn can occur especially when you are preparing a pepper with high Scoville scale such as Habanero.

 


 

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Scoville Scale

The Scoville scale is the world recognised scale for measuring the heat in chillies and other peppers.

The Scoville scale was created in the early 1900’s by Wilbur L. Scoville who was a pharmacist.

Scoville’s method was simple. He soaked each different variety of pepper separately in alcohol overnight. Because capsaicin is soluble in alcohol, the soaking extracted the pungent chemicals from the pod. Then he took a precise measure of the extract and to it added sweetened water in incremental portions until the heat was barely detectable on his tongue.

In the case of Japan chilies, it took sweetened water in volumes between 20,000 to 30,000 times the pepper extract before the heat was barely discernible. He thus rated the Japan chilies 20,000 to 30,000 Scoville Heat Units. Jalapenos were rated 3,000 to 5,000, and Tabasco 30,000 to 50,000. The hottest chillies Scoville tested was a naga jolokia which is primarily found native in Bangladesh which he measured at 850,000-1,000,000 Scoville units.

Scoville’s name has since become closely associated with the measure of pungency (heat), but the oral test is now being slowly replaced by a modern machine (High Pressure Liquid Chromatograph) that is as sensitive as the human tongue and unlink Scovilles method numerous tests can be conducted each day.

When choosing to Grow Chilli looks at the Scoville scale and choose a chilli that will suit your tastes. My favorite is birds eye chilli but they are quite hot coming in at about 50,000-100,000 scoville units.

The Scoville Scale of Hotness