It’s no secret some peppers are extremely spicy, but have you ever wondered what exactly makes them so spicy hot?
While a lot of people seem to think it’s the seeds, the seeds aren’t the true source of the spiciness at all. While pepper seeds may have a bit of a kick to them, it’s because they’ve come in contact with a chemical compound called capsaicin. Found naturally in hot peppers, the highest concentration of capsaicin exists within a pepper’s “pith”, which is actually a membrane that suspends the seeds of a pepper. Because of this, pepper seeds sometimes end up with some capsaicin on the surface of them, which is why you may have heard its best to remove the seeds when you cook with peppers if you’re hoping to reduce their spiciness.
The amount of capsaicin in a pepper is what gives it its high or low ranking on the hot pepper scale.
The more capsaicin, the higher the pepper sits on the scale. When you consume hot peppers, or sometimes even just touch one, it’s the capsaicin that causes a sort of burning sensation in your mouth, your throat, and sometimes on your skin. Luckily, it’s not a real burn with tissue damage, but some peppers are so intensely hot it may be hard to get your brain to understand the difference.
While a lot of people can’t get enough of hot peppers, most mammals don’t want anything to do with them.
Birds, on the other hand, don’t feel the burn. That makes sense, because in nature, birds help spread pepper seeds. On the other hand, capsaicin is said to help prevent fungal growth and insect damage, which helps hot peppers thrive and survive. So, the next time you grab for a hot pepper, remember that burning sensation is just a pepper’s way of beating the odds.