Top 10 Hot Pepper & Hot Sauce Fun Facts
It’s only May and the farmers markets and festivals are going strong. We love being out selling our hot sauce and talking to people about our charities. If the first two weeks in May are any indication it’s going to be a good year!
Inevitably, we get asked a lot of questions about hot peppers and hot sauce that range from the obvious to the obscure. The strangest question I ever received (about hot sauce) came at a wine festival last week when I was asked why cooking with Sriracha was causing a gentleman’s cast iron pans to rust. To that I had to honestly answer, “I don’t know.”
Usually, the questions we get are about the hottest pepper in the world, why peppers are hot, how their heat is measured and what can you use them on. The answers to these are included in our “Top Ten,” but quickly in order: Carolina Reaper, capsaicin, Scoville Scale and everything.
I hope you enjoy my list of Hot Sauce Fun Facts!!
Top Ten Fun Facts About Hot Sauce & Hot Peppers
1. Did you know that hot pepper seeds aren’t hot? A pepper’s heat actually comes from capsaicin— a colorless, pungent crystalline compound produced in the veins/ribs of a pepper.. The seeds may seem ‘hot’ but that’s because they are coated in capsaicin oil, not because they are hot themselves. The ribs are up to 16x as hot as the rest of the fruit. Be careful where you bite!
2. Have a bad day at the office or a rough workout at the gym? Chili peppers are one of the most widely used ingredients in massage oils and even topical pain relievers. Chilis are so versatile that they have been known to help with acne and even in anti-cellulite creams.
3. The Guinness Book of World Recordscrowned the Carolina Reaper the ‘hottest pepper in the world’ in 2013. It was cultivated by Ed Curriein South Carolina and averages more than 1.5 million Scoville Heat Units (SHU) on the Scoville scale — the measurement used to determine a pepper’s heat. A Jalapeño pepper, for reference, is between 3,500–10,000 SHU.
4. The Scoville Scale was created by American pharmacist Wilbur Scoville in 1912. The Scoville scale relies partly on a human tester, so measurement is sometimes imprecise. A more accurate (though not as fun) method is to use high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). HPLC provides results that are often 20–40% less than the SHU method, but at the end of the day it is all relative.
5. Both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew hot peppers on their estates. Christopher Columbus is credited with ‘discovering’ chili peppers in the ‘New World,’ but native cultures going back as far as the Mayans have used hot peppers in cooking as well as in religious and cultural celebrations.
6. Hot sauce is an aphrodisiac — the capsaicin is reputed to have strong powers when it comes to the language of love. Skip the chocolates next time and give your date a bottle of Hot Sauce 4 Good.
7. Oil and water don’t mix. Since capsaicin is an oil, drinking water after eating hot sauce will only exacerbate the effects — all it does is spread the heat around. Want to cool down? Try eating something with dairy in it — casein, a protein found in cow’s milk (all mammals milk to some degree, actually), latches onto capsaicin compounds and scrub them away. Pretty cool, right? To really quell the heat though, after eating some cheese, wash it down with a glass of beer. The alcohol in the beer breaks down the capsaicin and the carbonation leaves the mouth feeling clean.
8. Chili peppers are good for you. They are high in vitamins, a good source of beta carotene, calcium, and potassium, and may help reduce cholesterol. In fact, one medium-sized green chili has as much vitamin C as six oranges and red chilis are high in vitamin A.
9. Feeling timid? Eat some hot sauce! Japanese samurai ritually ate chili peppers before going into battle. Legend has it that eating chilis would make the samurai feel invincible. A chili pepper and a samurai sword — great combination! Even today, many high-level martial-artists listen to the Red Hot Chili Peppers while consuming chili peppers before a fight.
10. Hot sauce releases endorphins — particularly the compound mysteriously titled “Substance P.” The capsaicin messes with the pain receptors in the mouth, nose and stomach releasing this magical Substance P, which acts as a painkiller. Eat Hot Sauce 4 Good and you’ll feel good knowing you are helping change the world, AND you’ll actually feel good.
I hope you enjoyed our Top 10 - it's always fun doing a little research on hot peppers and hot sauces ― I always learn something new!
As always, peace!