In 1912, American chemist Wilbur Scoville devised what he called the “Scoville Organoleptic Test” as a means to measure the relative hotness or piquancy of chile peppers. Although it is somewhat subjective, the Scoville Scale (as it’s known today) is still used by growers and makers of hot sauce to rate piquancy by so-called Scoville Heat Units (SHU). What the Scoville Scale measures, of course, is the concentration of capsaicin – the chemical compound that produces the piquant nature of chiles. Bell peppers, which contain no capsaicin, have a Scoville rating of 0, while very hot peppers like Habaneros and Scotch Bonnets have ratings in the 100,000 to 350,000 SHU range.
We like to think of Jalapeno peppers being a good middle point in the relative scale of piquancy, with a Scoville rating in the 2,500 to 8,000 SHU range. Our lovely and mild Pepperoncini are in the area of 100 to 500 SHU, and our Thai Dragons weigh in at a sweat-inducing 50,000 to 100,000 SHU. As far as such things are quantifiable, we salute the ingenious Dr. Scoville.
(Family: Tomato, Solanaceae)