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The Rock Prairie Master Gardener Association, located in Rock County, Wisconsin, is the 42nd association of the Wisconsin Master Gardener Program.

This blog is used to distribute timely information to association members regarding volunteer opportunities, MGV highlights, and other social tid bits.

Horticulture related information is to be directed to the Horticulture Educator or the Plant Health Advisors.

This blog is not for garden related questions.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

What is the Scoville Scale?

Wilbur Lincoln Scoville (1865 - 1942) was an American pharmacist and chemist best known for his creation of "The Scoville Organaloptic Test", now standardized as the Scoville Scale - a measure of the hotness of chile peppers or any substance (such as hot sauce) make of chile peppers.

He devised the test and scale in 1912 while working at the fledgling research division of the Parke-Davis pharmaceutical company in Detroit, Michigan.

As originally devised, Scoville created a solution of the pepper extract diluted in sugar water until the 'heat' was no longer detectable to a panel of (usually five) tasters; the degree of dilution determined its measure on the Scoville Scale.

A sweet pepper, such as a bell pepper that contains no capsaicin at all, has a SHU rating of zero (no heat detectable even undiluted); whereas the hottest chillies, such as habaneros, have an SHU rating of 300,000 or more, indicating that their extract has to be diluted 300,000-fold before the capsaicin present is undetectable.

The greatest weakness of the Scoville Organoleptic Test is that it relies on human perceptions making it a highly subjective grading system. Over the years there has been much controversy as to the accuracy of the Scale, however it continues to be used by cooks and restaurateurs everywhere.

Webster's Online Dictionary

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1 comment:

  1. Scientists have also developed a more scientific screening using HPLC (chromatography). That would be more expensive, however, than sugar water and a human taster!