By Avery Weintraub
I have always wondered why chile peppers are so spicy, and what best stops the burn. Interestingly enough, I found out that spicy is not actually a taste. I now know what makes food feel hot, and what stops the burn the best.
Spiciness unlike sweetness, sourness, saltiness, bitterness, and umami is not a taste. It actually comes from a molecule in the spicy food called capsaicin. What happens when one eats a pepper is that the capsaicin in the pepper touches receptors in the mouth called polymodal nociceptors. These receptors are the same ones that activate when one drinks a scolding cup of coffee or bites into a piping hot pizza. These receptors provide a protective function by sending signals to one’s …show more content…
To find out the spiciness of a pepper the Scoville scale is the most commonly used system for measuring pungency. The original Scoville scale was invented by Wilbur Scoville. During his experiment, five people ate a spicy pepper. Afterwards, they each drank water with dissolved sugar. When enough sugar was added so that the spiciness could not be tasted, that amount of sugar was recorded and the system was converted into a scale. There are more efficient ways to determine the amount of capsaicin in a pepper, such as high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). HPLC separates compounds based on how they react to water. When the capsaicin content is determined, it is converted into ASTA pungency units. To stay consistent with the Scoville scale, the number is then converted back to the Scoville scale. Each pungency unit is equal to approximately 15 Scoville units.The Scoville scale goes from zero to sixteen million with zero being a bell pepper and sixteen million being pure capsaicin. A jalepeno is about 2,500-5,000 Scoville units, a habanero is about 10,000-350,000 Scoville units, and the hottest recorded pepper yet is the Carolina Reaper at around 2.2 million Scoville