Considering 1,359,000 Scoville Units

Honestly, I really can’t, but according to this article on Yahoo News, this is what the Naga Viper pepper is ranking in on the Scoville heat index scale, beating out the previous title holder, the Bhut Jolokia.  Why can’t I really Consider it?  Because, while a fan of a reasonable amount of piquance in various foods, a ranking approaching 1.5 million in the heat index is just absurd.

I guess where I get stuck on it is, what does that much heat really mean?  The hottest peppers I have ever ate were some habaneros, and they were terribly extreme, enough to get the sweat flowing, the eyes watering, and to cause some severe weezing and an extreme desire to put the fire in my mouth out.  The habaneros that I have tried rank around 300,000 to 400,000 Scoville units, meaning that the Naga Viper is about 4 times or about 1,000,000 units hotter.  I am curious if at that point it really means anything more than just sever and absolute pain and destruction.

Capsaicin is a truly fascinating (if not a little horrifying) biochemical.  The thought that there are vegetable plants that produce a weapon grade chemical is terrifying.  Add to that the fact that we actively pursue it’s cultivation (and I do too, having helped grow a good number of various fiery pepper varieties this year) and you really have to wonder about what is going on.

But consider this, as horribly as the Naga Viper is, it is a small drop in the pond of pure capsaicin, which can rank up to 16 million in Scoville units.  Then there is a natural chemical called resiniferatoxin, which can theoretically reach 16 billion scoville units (though don’t plan on getting any for that super chili you’ve been looking to cook, the stuff is so potent that it is actually carcinogenic, and toxic at even relatively small doses).

Heat is wild stuff.  But it keeps things interesting.

~ by Nathaniel on December 6, 2010.

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