Ranking 10 Peppers on the Scoville Scale

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In 1912, pharmacist—and assumed spicy food lover—Wilbur Scoville developed a system for measuring the level of heat in peppers and other spicy by measuring them in Scoville Heat Units, a.k.a. SHU, or the concentration of capsaicin found within them. Here are 10 peppers and how they rank on the Scoville Scale. How many would you be willing to give a try?

1. NAGA JOLOKIA (OR BHUT JOLOKIA) PEPPER

This is about as hot as a pepper gets at 855,000 to 1,050,000 Scoville units. It's not at the very top of the scale because that spot is reserved for pure capsaicin, the component in hot peppers that make them have that "burn." At the time this pepper was tested for the Scoville scale, the Red Savina (see below) was the hottest pepper in the world, and the bhut jolokia was found to be nearly twice as hot as that. It's reported that eating just one seed from this scorcher can make your mouth hurt for up to 30 minutes after you consume it. And you had better not get it in your eyes.

2. RED SAVINA PEPPER

The red savina was specifically grown to be a super-hot chili. Frank Garcia of GNS Spices in Walnut, California invented it (or bred it, I guess, would be more accurate), but people have been having trouble growing the red savina up to the level of hotness Garcia did, even when they have a certified red savina seed. Even so, you can find most red savinas somewhere between 350,000 and 580,000 on the Scoville.

3. HABANERO PEPPER

It's believed to have originated in the Yucatan and has a bit of a citrus flavor to it. The bhut jolokia is often mistaken for a habanero, but you would know the difference as soon as you bit into one. The habanero is only (only) 100,000 to 350,000 Scoville units.

4. DATIL PEPPER

It can be called a sweeter, fruitier version of the habanero. But just because it's sweeter doesn't mean it packs less punch: it can go up to 300,000 units on the Scoville, just like the Habanero can. It can also be milder, going all the way down to 100,000 units. You can find lots of datil peppers in the St. Augustine, Florida, area.

5. ROCOTO (ALSO LOCOTO) PEPPER

It isn't really found in the U.S. too much. It's common in South American countries and used in their cooking quite a bit. And it's so pretty! It can be a fairly mild pepper at 50,000 Scoville units, which is the equivalent of a really spicy cayenne pepper, but they can take you by surprise at 250,000 units as well.

6. CHILTEPIN PEPPER

It grows in Central America, Mexico, and the southwestern U.S. They're just little guys. The pepper is also known as the chile tepin, tepin being a Nahuatl word that means "flea." But don't let their little size fool you! Their heat is intense, measuring between 50,000 and 100,000 Scoville units. But if you can get through the first minute or so, you'll probably be OK: the heat is super strong but subsides quickly.

7. PEQUIN PEPPER

You probably know this pepper, but you may not realize it. It's one of the main ingredients in the cholula sauce you'll often find at Mexican restaurants. It's not too bad, being comparable in heat to the Cayenne at 30,000 to 60,000 Scoville units. But the taste is much different: it's supposed to have a smoky, nutty flavor.

8. CAYENNE PEPPER

It's a bit milder, rating at 30,000 to 50,000 Scoville units. It's named after the French Guiana city of Cayenne. I'm sure you're familiar with the cayenne pepper; it's ground and sold as a pretty common spice. Although it's only halfway down on the scale, it's definitely has some kick to it and is too hot for some people.

9. SERRANO PEPPER

It has just a little more kick than a jalapeño: 10,000 to 20,000 Scoville units. Not bad at all. You can also put some chipotle peppers in this category; a chipotle is really just a jalapeño that has been dried and treated.

10. JALEPENO PEPPER

At 2,500 to 10,000 Scoville units, it's pretty mild compared to the rest of these scorchers.

Wrap Yourself in the Sweet Smell of Bacon (or Coffee or Pine) With These Scented T-Shirts

adogslifephoto/iStock via Getty Images
adogslifephoto/iStock via Getty Images

At one point or another, you’ve probably used perfume, cologne, body spray, or another product meant to make you smell like a flower, food, or something else. But what if you could cut out the middleman and just purchase scented clothing?

Candy Couture California’s (CCC) answer to that is “You can!” The lifestyle brand offers a collection of graphic T-shirts featuring scents like bacon, coffee, pine tree, strawberry, and motor oil. If you have more traditional olfactory predilections, there are several options for you, too, including rose, lavender, and lemongrass. There’s even a signature Candy Couture California scent, which is an intoxicating blend of coconut, strawberry, and vanilla.

candy couture california bacon shirt
Candy Couture California

According to the website, CCC founder Sara Kissing came up with the idea in 2011 while working in the e-commerce fashion industry, and her personal experience with aromatherapy led her to investigate developing clothing that harnessed some of those same benefits. The T-shirts are created with scent-infused gel, which “gives off a delicate, mild smell—just enough to boost your mood.”

So you don’t have to worry about your bacon shirt making the whole office smell like a breakfast sandwich, but you yourself will definitely be able to enjoy its subtle, meaty aroma whenever you wear it. The shirts are also designed to match their scents—the chocolate shirt, for example, features chocolatey baked goods, while the coffee shirt displays steaming mugs of coffee.

candy couture california chocolate shirt
Candy Couture California

The fragrances don’t last forever, but they’ll stay strong through 15 to 20 washes before they start to fade. CCC recommends using unscented detergent so as not to conflict with the shirt’s aroma, and you can further prolong its life if you’re willing to wash it by hand.

Prices start at $79, and you can shop the full collection here.

The Fascinating History Behind Why Jewish Families Eat Chinese Food on Christmas

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For Jewish New Yorkers, scoring a seat at one of veteran restaurateur Ed Schoenfeld’s Chinese eateries on Christmas Day could be compared to a holiday miracle. “I think on that day we do more business than many restaurants do in three months,” Schoenfeld tells Mental Floss. “We serve all day long, we stay open all day long.”

Schoenfeld is the Jewish owner-operator of RedFarm, an Asian-fusion dim sum restaurant with two locations in New York (plus one in London), and Decoy, a West Village shrine to traditional Peking duck. While his expertise lies in Far Eastern cuisine, Schoenfeld grew up in Brooklyn and learned to cook from his Eastern European grandmother. And just like his customers, Schoenfeld and his family sometimes craved Chinese food on Christmas, eschewing homemade fare for heaping plates of chow mein and egg foo yung. The future restaurateur's grandmother kept a kosher kitchen, but outside the home all dietary laws flew out the window with the single spin of a Lazy Susan. Suddenly, egg rolls with pork were fair game, transfigured into permissible delicacies through hunger and willful ignorance.

As Gentiles feast on turkey and roast beef during the Yuletide season, why do many Jews opt for chop suey? For starters, it's convenient: Chinese restaurants are open on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. But as historians and culinary experts tell Mental Floss, other ingredients play a part in this delicious story.

Jews developed their love for all things steamed, stir-fried, and soy-sauced after leaving the Old Country. Between the mid-1800s and the 1930s, waves of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, Germany, and Greece began settling in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, a gritty, inexpensive neighborhood teeming with tenements, docks, and factories—and filled with synagogues and kosher butcher shops. “You started here, and then moved on," Sarah Lohman, author of Eight Flavors: The Untold Story of American Cuisine, says.

While Jewish immigrants found community on the Lower East Side, "there was a lot of discrimination against Jews at the turn of the century,” Lohman adds. "They were often criticized not only for not dressing like Americans and not speaking the language, but also for not converting to an 'American' religion."

Right next door to the burgeoning Jewish community on the Lower East Side was the city's nascent Chinatown. Many Chinese immigrants had initially come to the U.S. to work on the Transcontinental Railroad. After its completion in 1869, these laborers faced violence and discrimination in the western states. They came to New York City seeking new business opportunities, and some opened restaurants.

By and large, Chinese restaurateurs didn’t discriminate against Jewish customers. Joshua Eli Plaut writes in his book A Kosher Christmas: 'Tis the Season to be Jewish that the Chinese, as non-Christians, didn't perceive any difference between Anglo-Saxon New Yorkers and Jewish immigrants; they accepted all non-Chinese customers with open arms.

Jewish customers embraced Chinese food in return. The restaurants were conveniently located and inexpensive, yet were also urbane in their eyes. Jews saw dining out as an American custom that they wanted to try, largely because they sought upward mobility among other Americans. According to Yong Chen, a history professor and author of Chop Suey, USA: The Story of Chinese Food in America, "[Diners] were attracted to Chinese food because, in their mind, it represented American cosmopolitanism and middle class status." And they weren't deterred by the fact that food in Chinese restaurants wasn't kosher. But they could easily pretend it was.

Dairy wasn’t a big part of Chinese meals, so Jewish diners didn’t have to worry about mixing meat and milk (a no-no in kosher diets). And non-kosher ingredients like pork or seafood were often finely chopped, drowned in sauces, or mixed with other ingredients, like rice. These elements were well disguised enough that they could pass for more permissible forms of meat. “You could kind of willfully ignore that there might be pork in there," Lohman says. "It’s like a vegetarian eating a soup that has chicken stock. If you’re a little flexible about your Judaism, you would just ‘not notice’ the pork in your fried rice.”

Chinese food was exotic and new, filled with surprising flavors, ingredients, and textures [PDF]. But for some Eastern European Jews, it also had familiar elements. Both Eastern European and Chinese cuisines shared an affinity for sweet and sour flavors and egg-based dishes. "[Chinese restaurants] had these pancakes, which were like blintzes,” says Joan Nathan, author of King Solomon's Table: A Culinary Exploration of Jewish Cooking from Around the World, and the wontons resembled kreplach (both are meat-filled soup dumplings).

The fact that the Chinese and Jews were America’s two largest non-Christian immigrant populations brought them together, Jennifer 8. Lee, author of The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food, tells Mental Floss. Unlike, say, Italian restaurants, Chinese restaurants were open on Sundays and on Christian holidays. They also lacked religious imagery, which may have made them appear more welcoming for Jews.

Combined, these factors caused the number of Chinese restaurants in urban East Coast cities to skyrocket during the early 20th century. Jews soon accounted for 60 percent of the white clientele in New York City's and Philadelphia’s Chinese restaurants, Chen writes, and Chinese restaurants would often go out of their way to cater to these clients. The eateries delivered their food to Jewish neighborhoods and to individual customers.

Yet an unwavering affection for Chinese food wasn't shared by all Jews. In an example cited by Chen and Lee, a reporter for Der Tog (The Day), a Yiddish daily newspaper in New York City, noted in 1928 that Jewish diners were in danger of drowning their culinary roots in soy sauce. To take back their taste buds, Jewish-Americans should hoist protest signs reading “Down with chop suey! Long live gefilte fish!” the journalist joked.

But Jewish cookbooks had already begun including Americanized dishes like chop suey and egg foo yung, which Chinese chefs had specially created to appeal to homegrown appetites. And as Lower East Side Jews moved to different neighborhoods, boroughs, and suburbs, Chinese restaurants followed them.

By the mid-20th century, Nathan says, Chinese restaurants had become de facto social clubs in Jewish communities. Familiar faces were always present, children were always welcome, and eating with your hands wasn’t just encouraged—it was required. Everyone left filled with food and gossip, whether it was Christmas or an ordinary Sunday evening.

Thanks to immigration patterns, nostalgia, and convenient hours of operation, this culinary custom has stuck around. “Jewish guests want to go out and eat Chinese food on Christmas,” Schoenfeld, the Manhattan restaurateur, says. “It’s become a tradition, and it’s extraordinary how it’s really grown.”

This story originally ran in 2017.

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