chile type, soon become fleshier and take their mature form. As the tiny immature pepper
starts to swell the flower will drop off. These continue to ripen until the ripened pepper
drops from the plant onto the ground.
As autumn progresses, air and soil temperatures will become cooler slowing plant
growth. Should frost occur, this will kill both the plant and the roots. While pepper plants
can grow for several years in warmer climates, the performance of the plant will decrease
as the years progress, with only a few years of fruitful growth seen.
Peppers and Heat
Bell peppers and chile peppers are all members of the same family (genus: Cap-
sicum ). They differ dramatically however in their taste, with bell peppers having a gentle
sweet taste, and chiles having a hot, often extremely fiery taste. The reason for this dif-
ference is that bell peppers do not produce a compound called Capsaicin. This compound
acts on the pain receptors giving rise to the intense sensation when eating a chile. The com-
pound is stored in the veins of the peppers and walls of the peppers. Contrary to popular
belief the seeds themselves are not hot, but rather are often covered in capsaicin due to con-
tact with the surrounding material in the plant.
People have tried to quantify the heat of chiles. To do this a scale called the Scoville
scale is used. This is named after an American scientist Wilbur Scoville, who developed
this test at the start of the 20 th century. Initially this was very much a subjective test, where
chiles were repeatedly diluted in water to such a point whereby a human tester couldn't feel
any heat. Such a measurement is of course dependent upon the sensitivity of the tester and
so a range of Scoville units were typically assigned. Nowadays a highly-exacting technique
called HPLC (High Performance Liquid Chromatography) is used to measure the concen-
tration of capsacin in a particular chile. The world record for the hottest chile according to
the Guinness Book of Records is Smokin' Ed's “Carolina Reaper” grown by the Pucker-
Butt Pepper Company (USA). This chile has an average rating of 1,569,300 Scoville units.
To put that in context, that's around 150 times hotter than a jalapeno pepper!! Growing pep-
pers to find the hottest is becoming a major pastime with environmental conditions playing
a role in addition to the variety of pepper themselves, with long hot dry summers more
conducive to extra fiery peppers. The Scoville rating of a number of peppers is highlighted
Sweet Bell: 0 Scoville Units
Cherry peppers: 100-1,000 Scoville Units
Pasilla: 1,500-3,000 Scoville Units