The man behind the Scoville scale

It’s no secret that some chili peppers are much spicier on the pepper heat scale than others.

While the Carolina Reaper is smoking hot, the lowly bell pepper sits at the very bottom of the scale. If the thought of eating a jalapeno makes your skin sweat, keep in mind it’s much closer to the bell than it is to even the middle of the scale in terms of Scoville heat units. Obviously, the peppers weren’t just handed an arbitrary number, they earned it. Someone had to put them to the test, or rather some very brave people.

That’s where a man named Wilbur Scoville came into the picture.

He was born in Connecticut more than 150 years ago. Scoville was a researcher and chemist. He was also a professor and a vice chair of the American Pharmaceutical Association. Scoville once wrote a book that mentions using milk as an antidote for combating the heat of extremely hot peppers. He’s likely best known, though, for using people to measure the pungency of peppers. Scoville wasn’t the first to figure out peppers were packed with heat, but he was the one who standardized the pepper scale. Ranging from the bell pepper to the Carolina Reaper, the scale assigns a value to the some of the hottest peppers on the planet. That’s why it’s still called the Scoville scale after none other than Wilbur Scoville.

The heat’s no longer just for considering pure Scoville scale peppers, either. There are all kinds of pepper products out there capable of capturing the extreme heat and delivering an over-the-top dose of heat whenever you feel the need to spice up a meal or snack. Just keep in mind, the Scoville scale doesn’t lie. The ones at the top are extremely hot and not recommended for the faint of heart.

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