You’ve probably heard people say the way to tone down the spice from a hot pepper is to get rid of its seeds.
It turns out, the seeds aren’t really at the root of a chili’s spiciness after all. The real heat of a hot pepper comes from capsaicin. That’s the compound naturally found in chili peppers that makes them so hot. The capsaicin isn’t just contained to one part of the chili, either. While some parts of a pepper do have more capsaicin than other parts, the seeds are indeed the only part of a hot pepper that doesn’t actually produce any capsaicin at all. That’s not to say there isn’t any capsaicin in seeds. It turns out pepper seeds can absorb capsaicin from other parts of a pepper.
So, while the seeds aren’t actually the source of the “heat”, they can end up with it.
The part of the pepper that produces the most capsaicin is the white pith. That’s the part of the pepper that surrounds the seeds, which is probably what leads to some of the confusion. There’s a good reason why the pith is packed with capsaicin. Naturally, the chili forms in a way that tries to protect its seeds from hungry predators, which is why this is where the highest concentration of capsaicin is produced. Interestingly enough, mammals can digest chili seeds, but birds can’t. Instead, birds play a role in dispersing the pepper’s seeds in nature.
Pure capsaicin sits at the very top of the Scoville Scale, which is used to rate the heat of different peppers. If you love the taste and don’t mind the earth-scorching heat, there are some great options that sit on the upper end of the scale. Of course, it’s also okay to start on the lower end and work your way up the heat scale.