Fun facts for your next dinner party...
Capsaicin (pronounced: cap-say-sin)
The substances that give chillies their intensity when ingested or applied topically are capsaicin and several related chemicals, collectively called capsaicinoids. Capsaicin is a chemical compound that stimulates chemical receptor nerve endings in the skin. Capsaicin is also the primary component in chilli spray, a non-lethal weapon and a useful deterrent against aggressive mammals (that means us, too).
When consumed, capsaicinoids bind with pain receptors in the mouth and throat that are responsible for sensing heat. Once activated by the capsaicinoids, these receptors send a message to the brain that the person has consumed something hot. The brain responds to the burning sensation by raising the heart rate, increasing perspiration and release of endorphins.
Capsaicin affects only mammals, not birds. Chilli seeds can survive the digestive tract of birds. The fruit on chilli plants becomes brightly coloured once its seeds are mature enough to germinate, thereby attracting the attention of birds who then distribute the seeds.
Well, how about that?
The Race to be the Hottest...
In 1994, the Red Savina Habanero was the first chilli to enter into the Guinness Book of World Records as the hottest chilli in the world, with 577,000 SHU. The record was held until 2007 when the Naga Bhut Jolokia chilli from Assam India (known widely now as the Ghost chilli) tipped the Scoville scale at 1,001,304 SHU.
Since then, the record has been stolen by the Infinity Chilli (7-Pot), the Naga Viper, the Trinidad Scorpion (Butch T) and now currently sits with Smokin Ed's Carolina Reaper at 1,569,300 SHU.
Although some chillies have tested hotter (some reaching over 2 million SHU) over the past couple of years, none of those chillies have become stabilised enough yet to produce a consistent result to earn the new record.