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Hotter than a pepper sprout

Hotter than a pepper sprout

Michael Tibollo is the Associate Minister of Mental Health and addictions for Ontario. He first came to fame in 2018 when he unseated Steven Del Duca in their Vaughan-Woodbridge riding in the provincial election. As we see in this video he has a rather interesting gardening hobby.

The Scoville scale is a measure of the ‘hotness’ of a chilli pepper or anything derived from chilli peppers, i.e. hot sauce. The scale is actually a measure of the concentration of the chemical compound capsaicin which is the active component that produces the heat sensation for humans. The name capsaicin comes from the scientific classification of the pepper plant, a type of fruit, that belongs to the genus Capsicum. Capsaicin (8-methyl N-vanillyl 6-nonenamide) occurs naturally in chilli peppers together with a number of very similar compounds referred to generically as capsaicinoids, it is the precise ration of these capsaicinoids which causes the differences in taste reaction to different pepper species, for example the typical delayed reaction to the habanero pepper (C. chinense) as compared to other species.

The scale or test is named after Wilbur L. Scoville (1865-1942), who developed the Scoville Organoleptic Test in 1912 while working at the Parke Davis pharmaceutical company. As originally devised, a solution of the pepper extract is diluted in sugar water until the ‘heat’ is no longer detectable to a panel of (usually five) tasters; the degree of dilution gives its measure on the Scoville scale. A sweet pepper, that contains no capsaicin at all, has a Scoville rating of zero (no heat detectable even undiluted); whereas the hottest chillies, such as habaneros have a rating of 300,000 or more, indicating that their extract has to be diluted 300,000-fold before the capsaicin present is undetectable. The greatest weakness of the Scoville Organoleptic Test is its imprecision, because it relies on human subjectivity.

Nowadays, capsaicin concentrations are determined using more scientific methods, typically High Pressure Liquid Chromatography (HPLC). The direct measurement of capsaicin gives much more accurate results than sensory methods.

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