Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Chillies or chilly powder are an indispensable ingredient in the preparation of Indian dishes and are used to render ‘hotness’ or pungency to a dish. How hot can a chilli be ? Only recently the Naga Jolokia, originating in the Assam region of northeastern India, was officially recognised by the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s hottest chilli measuring at over 1,000,000 Scoville Units (SCH)
This chilli is also grown in the states of Nagaland and Manipur in India.
What is in a name ? The Naga Jolokia was so named after the Naga Warriors who once inhabited Nagaland in northeast India, who were renowned for being very ferocious.Thus it is also called Bih Jolokia (Bih = 'poison', Jolokia = 'chilli pepper) or Bhut Jolokia (Bhut = 'ghost', probably due to its ghostly bite)
Whew ! It seems that this chilli has enough heat to make a volcano explode ! How does one measure the hotness of a chilli (pepper) ? The Scoville scale is a measure of the 'hotness' of a chilli pepper or anything derived from chilli peppers, i.e. hot sauce. The scale is actually a measure of the concentration of the chemical compound capsaicin which is the active component that produces the heat sensation for humans.
Measuring pepper hotness: The scale or test is named after Wilbur L. Scoville, who developed the Scoville Organoleptic Test in 1912 while working at the Parke Davis pharmaceutical company. As originally devised, a solution of the pepper extract is diluted in sugar water until the 'heat' is no longer detectable to a panel of (usually five) tasters; the degree of dilution gives its measure on the Scoville scale.
The greatest weakness of the Scoville Organoleptic Test is its imprecision, because it relies on human subjectivity.
Of late, capsaicin concentrations are determined using more scientific methods, like High Pressure Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) This method directly measure the amount of capsaicin and provides much more accurate results than sensory methods.
HOT OR NOT: The chilli hotness scale, depicted in Scoville Heat Units
Pure capsaicin: 15 million to 16 million (Hottest)
Naga-Bih Jolokia pepper: 1,001,304
Dorset Naga: 923,000
Red Savina habanero: 577,000
Scotch bonnet: 100,000-325,000
Jamaican hot pepper: 100,000-200,000
Cayenne pepper: 30,000-50,000
Jalapeno pepper: 2,500-8,000
Pimento: 100 to 500
Bell pepper: 0 (Mildest)
Only pure capsaicin - the active heat ingredient in chillis - measures higher on the Scoville scale.
As a healing agent:
Since ancient times, chillies, have been used by healers to cure a variety of ailments. They have been used externally to relieve pain and internally to cure many ailments and some of its medicinal properties are listed below:
Sialagogue - Promotes the flow of saliva
Alterative Facilitates a beneficial change in the body - to help the body's drive to restore itself to normal health
Rubefacient Reddens the skin by increasing the circulation when rubbed onto the surface
Carminative - Prevents gas forming in the intestines and also assists in expelling it
Anticoagulant - Helps prevent the formation of blood clots which can cause heart attacks and strokes
Capsaicin ointments have been found to relieve the pain of arthritis and shingles when applied externally, and, taken internally, capsaicin triggers the release of endorphins in the brain, which has a pain relieving effect similar to that of morphine.
Nutritional facts: A single pepper has been found to contain a full day's supply of beta carotene and nearly twice the recommended daily allowance for vitamin C, which makes the chilli an invaluable food in the fight against cancer and heart disease. Chillies may also help in weight loss by speeding up the metabolism !
So, are you ready to take the ghostly poison bite ?