There’s a kind of machismo attached to eating the spiciest food known to man, and there’s a reason so many people enjoy the powerful flavors associated with chilli peppers.
The tingling sensation on the tongue when you try a chilli is caused by a substance called capsaicin, which tricks the brain into thinking you’re burning. The body then secretes natural painkilling chemicals called enorphins, which send out a rugh of pleasure. The heat of a chilli, also referred to as its piquancy, is measured in Scoville heat units (SHU), after Wilbur Scoville who developed a hotness test for chillies in 1912. His scale measured the concentration of capsaicin found in a chilli by taking chill extract and diluting it in water until a human taste panel could no longer detect any heat from the solution.
The problem with Scoville’s scale was that it relied on subjectivity, so today hotness is calculated using liquid chromatography to identify the concentration of heat-producing chemicals in chillies.
Dorset Naga: Heat Rating 923,000 SHU
Related to the Scotch bonnet, this devilshly hot chilli is grown in polytunnels by a couple in Dorset.
Red Savina Habanero: Heat Rating 577,000 SHU
According to the Guinness Book of World Records, this was the world’s hottest chilli until 206.
Scotch Bonnet: Heat Rating 100,000-325,000 SHU
Used mainly in Caribbean cuisine, the Scotch bonnet is a small chilli similar to the habanero.