Hot Hot Hot

(With Apologies to Robert Smith)

Via my BBFF (Best Blogger Friend Forever) Ezra, comes an Economist article about the quest for ever-increasingly hot chili peppers.  Now, I am a plenty good fan of hot-n-spicy food – although I have learned, to my peril, that there are things that are somewhat beyond my ability to eat without consequence – but there comes a time when people of good conscience must stand athwart the progress of science and shout – enough!

I believe we’ve reached that point.

Tesco, Britain’s biggest supermarket chain, recently added a new pepper to its vegetable shelves: the Dorset naga. Inhaling its vapour makes your nose tingle. Touching it is painful; cooks are advised to wear gloves. It is the only food product that Tesco will not sell to children. By the standards of other chilies, it is astronomically hot. On the commonly used Scoville scale (based on dilution in sugar syrup to the point that the capsaicin becomes no longer noticeable to the taster) it rates 1.6m units, close to the 2m score of pepper spray used in riot control. The pepper that previously counted as the world’s hottest, the Bhut Jolokia grown by the Chile Pepper Institute at the New Mexico State University, scored just over 1m. That in turn displaced a chili grown by the Indian Defence Research Laboratory in Tezpur, which scored a mere 855,000. The hottest habanero chilies score a wimpy 577,000.

Once we have a “Defence Research Laboratory” trying to grow ever-hotter chili peppers, we have simply crossed a line that mankind was not meant to go beyond.  That way lies madness, I say.

Although, I also liked this bit.

The naga has been a runaway success. In 2007, a Tesco outlet in Newcastle in northern England was supplied with 400 packs for a pilot period that was intended to last a month. The entire stock sold out on the first morning. According to AC Nielsen, a market-research firm, demand for hot chilies across all British retailers rose by 18% in the last year. At Tesco, the growth has been 29%. Demand for the naga has been so high that it has been forced to sell unripe green ones, intended for sale early next year. Tesco’s supplier is Britain’s biggest chili farmer, Filippo Salvatore. Based near Biggleswade, he is also a leading light in the Bedford Sicilian Association. He is hurrying to grow more.

Only in Britain could you actually have a town called “Biggleswade.”  Hi-larious!

And also, although 1.6M Scovilles is undoubtedly scar-your-esophagus hot, pure capsaicin is about 16M Scovilles, which means that we still have a long way to go in The War On Taste Buds.

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