[CH] LA Times Articles

Wed, 27 May 98 15:33:17 -0500

     Hello Chile Heads.  Here are a couple Chile articles from the food 
     section of today's (5/27) LA Times -  by Charles Perry - retyped 
     without permission:
     The Peak of Hotness
        Capasaicin-or rather, the seven related chemicals known as 
     capsaiciniods- are what make chiles hot, and once the pods are picked, 
     the chemicals are pretty stable.  Dried chiles found in South American 
     tombs thousands of years old are still peppery.   However, the chile 
     plant that produces capasaicinoids also starts destroying them at a 
     certain point.  In the May 20 Web edition of the Journal of 
     Agricultural and Food Chemistry, published by the American Chemical 
     Society, two scientists at the Universidad Autonoma de Queretaro, 
     Mexico, reported a study of the level of hot stuff in chiles at 
     various ages of the plant.  They found that there's a peak, after 
     which the level falls rapidly, due to compounds called peroxidases, 
     which occur naturally in the living plants.
        In pequin chiles, reported Elhadi M. Yahia and Margarita 
     Conteras-Padilla, the peak is 40 days; in habaneros (which have a long 
     way to coast, of course), it's 50.
        "If we can understand how capsaicinoiods break down," commented 
     Yahia, "this could be a first step in reducing these losses for those 
     cultures where chile peppers are of great importance."
     Objective Chiles
        Every hot sauce claims astronomical "Scoville units" referring to 
     an old-fashioned and somewhat subjective system of evaluating chile 
     hotness.  Now the hot sauce catalog company Mo Hotta Mo Betta is 
     taking the issue out of the speculative realm.  It has submitted all 
     its hot sauces to a laboratory for High Performance Liquid 
     Chromatography analysis.
        The lab used by the San Luis Obispo-based mail order company rates 
     Tabasco at 2,140 Scoville units, El Yucateco Habenero (green) at 
     8,910, Dave's Insanity Sauce at 51,000 and the infamous Mad Dog 
     Inferno at 89,560.  A dry mixture of ground peppers comes in at 
     180,000, which must be pretty close to the natural limit.
        True chile loons will just have to try Mad Dog Inferno and its 
     like.  But, for the record, the numerical ratings are accompanied in 
     Mo Hotta Mo Betta's catalog by a "thermomoeter" scale, which doesn't 
     bother to distinguish among levels over 5,000 units.  Above that 
     level, hotness is not so much culinary as, let's say, recreational.