By Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, Herb Society of America
The chile pepper is hot.
It’s January 2016 Herb of the Month for The Herb Society of America AND 2016 Herb of the Year for the International Herb Association.
I’ve been herb gardening since 1990 and never would have considered the chile to be an herb. Piper Zettel, assistant to the curator of the National Herb Garden, says I’m mistaken. And, I’m OK with that.
“Chile peppers are considered an herb because they’re used to enrich human lives,” she says. “Herbs are plants used to enrich lives in ways that are not strictly edible or ornamental. Chile peppers are used medicinally and industrially.”
Thus, an herb.
“There are more than 30 species and probably a couple 100 different varieties,” she notes. “The National Herb Garden plans to grow 100 varieties to celebrate the herb.”
Chile peppers may be one of the most global of herbs. Consider their use across cultures – starting in South America thousands of years ago and traveling around the world during the last 500. Today, Americans are fascinated by the chile-pepper-spiked foods such as hot wings, hot sauces, chili, infused vodka, flavored cocktails.
I recently had a jalapeno-cucumber mojito. The heat of the pepper with the cool of the cucumber created a balance that was delish.
Food fascination aside, chile peppers are being studied for medicinal uses.
“Initially causing a burning hot sensation, the compound [capsaicin] is used as a topical pain medication because, when applied regularly, results in numbness to local tissue. Despite being widely used, researchers have previously not known how capsaicin exerts its pain-killing effects.”
While medicinal uses may be significant, some folks use them to torture themselves and, perhaps, unsuspecting exes.
Fear holding you back? Search “Hot Pepper” on YouTube to watch capsaicin masochists in action.. Apparently, you’ll find popular videos reaching millions of viewers. One chilehead has gathered more than 34 million – yes, million — views.
While the hottest pepper of 2016 hasn’t yet been determined, the hottest pepper in 2015 was the Carolina Reaper, checking in at more than 2.2 million Scoville units.
For the initiated, the Scoville scale measures ‘hotness’ of a chile pepper or anything made from chile peppers. Developed in 1912, it’s named after founder William Scoville.
Pure capsaicin – which determines the hotness of peppers – is 15 to 16 MILLION Scoville units. No pepper has gotten even close. And, that may be a good thing.
Several sources agree the 10 hottest peppers are
|1||Carolina Reaper||1,200,000 ~ 2,100,00|
|2||Moruga Scorpion||1,200,000 ~ 2,009,231|
|3||Choclate 7 Pot||1,169,000 ~ 1,850,000|
|4||Trinidad Scorpion||1,029,000 ~ 1,390,000|
|5||Naga Jolokia “Ghost Pepper”||1,020,000 ~ 1,578,000|
|6||Naga Gibralta||900,000 ~ 1,086,844|
|7||Naga Viper||800,000 ~ 1,382,118|
|8||Infinity||800,000 ~ 1,067,286|
|9||Dorset Naga||800,000 ~ 970,000|
|10||Naga Morich||770,000 ~ 1,034,910|
For the record, the jalapeno checks in between 2,500 and 8,000 Scoville units. That’s hot enough for me.