Anatomy of a Chili Pepper

Growing Chillies

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.

Chili Pepper

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.

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.

Worlds Hottest Pepper – Naga Jolokia or Bhut Jolokia

Worlds Hottest Pepper

The worlds hottest pepper is officially the Naga Jolokia also known as Bhut Jolokia. When translated in Hindi this means Ghost Chili which is also another common name.

Worlds Hottest Pepper

The chili hails from Bangladesh but is also found in Sri Lanka and India. The Guinness Book of Records officially named it the worlds hottest Pepper (or chili) in 2007.

To give you a idea on how hot it is, Jalapenos are about 6000 Scoville Scale units, while Tabasco measures in at about 195000 scoville scale units. The Naga Jolokia is a burning 1 million scoville scale units.

This is about 400 times stronger then Tabasco. When eating this chili it BURNS!! then it gets worse. Effects can last up to 30min. Milk can help sooth the burning but will not eliminate it.

Characteristics of the Naga Jolokia or Bhut Jolokia Chili plant

Plant height 45–120 cm
Stem color Green
Leaf color Green
Leaf size 10-14.5cm by 5.5-7.5cm
Leaf width 5.4–7.5 cm
Fruit color at maturity Red
Fruit shape Sub-conical to conical
Fruit length 5–9 cm
Fruit width at shoulder 2.5–3 cm
Fruit weight 6–9 grams
Fruit surface Rough, uneven
Seed color Light tan
Seeds per chili 19–35

This chili is so hot, that in 2009, scientists at India’s Defense Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) announced plans to use the chillies in hand grenades, as a non lethal way to flush out terrorists from their hideouts and to control rioters. It will also be developed into pepper spray as a self defense product.

We would love to hear from you if you have tried this chili or grown it. We hope to obtain some Naga Jolokia/Bhut Jolokia Seeds shortly.

Check out our great range of chili seeds!!

Everything You Need To Know About The Scoville Scale

Scoville Scale

If you love a spicy hot chilli pepper you have no doubt seen or heard of the Scoville Scale before. The higher the amount on the scale, the hotter yourScoville Scale chilli.

As you, like many of us, have been busy enjoying the sumptuous heat of hot chilli peppers you may not have paid much mind to how their heat is measured using this scale.

We know it measures the heat, but how does it do it? How was it invented? Which is the hottest chilli on the scale?

So that you can feel much more clued up on the Scoville Scale, we’ve collected all the information you need to know about it and more:


Scoville Scale – The Measurement of a Chillies Heat

The Scoville scale is the world recognized scale for measuring the heat in chillies and other peppers. The scale was created in the early 1900’s by Scoville Scale pharmacist Wilbur L. Scoville.

Scoville’s method was simple, yet very effective. 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.

He then took a precise measure of the extract and added sweetened water in incremental portions until the heat was barely detectable on his tongue.

This process was groundbreaking in measuring the heat of chillies and no other method has been found to be as effective, which is why the Scoville Scale is still used today, albeit in a different processing format.

Scoville Heat Units (SHUs)

An SHU is the actual number assigned to the heat of a pepper. A chilli with a rating of 0 Scoville Heat Units (SHUs), means that there is no heat detectable.

As an example, in the case of Japanese chillies, it took sweetened water in volumes between 20,000 to 30,000 times the pepper extract before the heat was barely discernible.

The Scoville Scale then rated the Japanese chillies 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 chilli Scoville tested was a naga jolokia which is primarily found native to Bangladesh, which he measured at a massive 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.

Using High Pressure Liquid Chromatography, analytical chemistry has now replaced the testing that used to be performed by the sensitive human tongue and, unlike Scovilles original method, numerous tests can be conducted each day.


Which Chillies Should I Grow Based On The Scoville Scale?

When you are considering which chillies to grow based on the Scoville Scale, there are two main factors to consider.

One consideration is what you want to grow the chilli plants for. If you want to grow them to eat, the chances are that there will be a cap as to how hot you like your chillies. Most people love chillies around 2,500 – 8,000 on the Scoville Scale such as the jalapeño, which is fresh, crunchy and delicious.

If you want to go a little hotter, the Serrano chilli pepper is a good choice, although it can reach 23,000 on the Scoville Scale in heat.

True lovers of super hot chillies will move towards the Habanero which can top 200,000 on the Scoville Scale or more.

If you want to grow chillies to sell or make products from, there are two directions to go in. One direction is making hot products most people will love, in which case peppers with good flavour and less overall spice like yellow hot peppers, jalapeños and the like will be a good choice.

If you’re going for the novelty factor, then you should choose the hottest peppers you dare grow, like the Carolina Reaper, which gained much notoriety after the one chip challenge became so famous a few years ago.

The Carolina Reaper can reach over 1.5 million SHU on the Scoville Scale.

If you do want to grow very hot peppers, you have to consider various growing factors that come with growing a product like this.

Handling, for example, of the peppers has to be done with gloves and precautions as to not touch your eyes or skin whilst handling the products.

You may well also have to include a warning with the peppers if you do sell them or products containing them.

They can cause some pretty strong reactions and it is important that anybody buying your produce understands the risks involved in consuming this kind of chilli.


How Hot Will You Go On The Scoville Scale?

Hot chillies are delicious, and knowing where on the scale your favourite peppers sit is really interesting.

There will be many more types to try in the future too, as more and more people have been trying to grow chillies that top the hottest chilli on the Scoville Scale to top the current Guinness World Record holder for hottest chilli – the Carolina Reaper.