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Thursday, July 09, 2009

A Chili named bhut jolokia

The hotness or pungency of a chili is measured in Scoville Heat Units (SHUs), that is, the amount of capsaicin (a chemical compound that stimulates nerve endings in the skin) present. Thus a bell pepper, which contains no capsaicin, would have a SHU rating of zero, while commonly used varieties like jalapeno or Italian peperoncino would log in less at than 5,000 SHUs. Until recently, it was the fiery hot Red Savina Habaneros developed in the United States with a rating of 350,000–580,000 SHUs that was regarded the king of the chili world. Then in 2000, the DRDO's Defense Research Laboratory (DRL) at Tezpur in the northeastern state of Assam claimed they had discovered a chili with a pungency of 850,000 SHUs. That claim was met with much skepticism abroad. In 2005, Paul Bosland, a professor at the New Mexico State University in the US, decided to test the claim. He found that the DRL was wrong. It had underestimated the pungency of the bhut jolokia. Its pungency, he found, measured a scorching 1,001,304 SHUs. Bhut jolokia had toppled the Red Savinia to emerge as the hottest chili in the world.


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