08 September, 2009
Scoville Heat Units in Peppers
A couple of Jalapenos (SHUs 3500) and a couple Sweet Bananas (SHUs about 1200), both of which I have enough to learn how to preserve by drying and pickling. There are still a lot more green peppers in the Garden - but all of them will have to be picked soon because the Venice High School students will be in the Garden learning to grow a whole new crop of edibles for winter!
I've had a great crop of peppers this year – which, I find a tad disturbing, because this year was lousy for eggplants to a lack of consistent heat, and if it didn't get hot enough for one, I'd think it'd not be hot enough for the other. But I have a lot of peppers. We pickled about 5 pints of the Sweet Banana peppers so far this year, but the jalapeños, I'm letting stay on the vine until they turn red so I can dry them until they are crispy to grind them into powder for a teentsy little zip in some recipes over the coming months.
One thing to remember when working with hot peppers: either wear rubber gloves or make very sure to wash your hands thoroughly before you touch your face – especially your eyes – the juice in hot peppers are just about one of the most painful solutions you can get into your eyes. Or other sensitive flesh parts of your body.
Measurements of heat in peppers are in Scoville Heat Units (SHU's), which is predicated on the amount of capsaicin in the pepper. Here is a chart comparing the different peppers and their varying amounts of capsaicin. If you know the SHU of a pepper, you can avoid blasting the top of your head off. But, remember, right after the note on keeping capsaicin out of your eyes, if you dry peppers, the heat increases by a factor of ten! That's an increase worth remembering!
Pepper Type Heat rating (in Scoville heat units)
Pure Capsaicin 16,000,000
Naga Jolokia 800,000 ~ 1,041,000
Dorset Naga 800,000 ~ 900,000
Red Savina Habanero 350,000 ~ 575,000
Red Amazon 75,000
Smoked Jalepeno (Chipotle) 10,000
TAM Mild Jalepeno-1 1,000-1,500
New Mexican 1,000
Bell & Pimento 0
I'm afraid my Kansas heritage precludes eating most of these. Anything above Jalapeno would not be found in my kitchen! And yet, I've dried Jalapenos. That's just a little scary - the only use I have for the final dried Jalapeno powder will be to add a pinch to my famous Hot Chocolate That Kills, served at the Learning Garden for Dia de los Muertos and again at Valentines Day. Other than that, I'll keep it tightly capped and show the container to some things I'm cooking just to make them THINK about being warmer. :-)