Five Perfect Peppers: From Mild to Wild
Warm up your winter with perfectly pungent peppers. Each pepper has its own bold flavor and capsaicin content. Capsaicin is the chemical component found in peppers that produces the familiar burning sensation. In 1912, a pharmacist named Wilbur Scoville developed a method for measuring a pepper’s heat known as the Scoville scale. It uses Scoville heat units (SHU) that are based on the perception of the heat created by a pepper’s capsaicin content.
Bell peppers have a bittersweet flavor and grow sweeter the longer they are allowed to ripen. Green peppers are harvested before they are fully ripe, which preserves a slightly bitter taste. However, the yellow, orange, and red varieties have a sweet, almost fruity flavor. Bell peppers are one of the few species of pepper that doesn’t produce capsaicin.
- Raw bell peppers go great on salads, pizzas, and sandwiches. They can be stuffed with rice, cheese, and meats. They also complement stir-fries and grilled dishes.
- SHU = 0
Cherry Bomb Peppers
Red cherry chilies have a sweet flavor with a mild spice. Most of the spice comes from the white seeds at the heart of the pepper.
- Cherry chilies pair well with a variety of cheeses, as well as sausage and pork. They are great peppers for pickling, smoking, stuffing, and adding to salsa for a mild heat.
- SHU = 100-3,500 SHU
Most poblano peppers have a mild, earthy flavor, but the heat is unpredictable. Red poblanos that have a longer period to ripen are significantly hotter than their green counterparts.
- Poblanos can be stuffed with cheese, dried, or added to guacamole for a medium heat. The seeds of poblanos are also used in crushed red pepper.
- SHU = 1,000-1,500
One of the most familiar peppers, jalapeños have a vegetal flavor with a spicy kick that has become a staple at concession stands across the country.
- Jalapenos are a common topping for nachos, hamburgers, and hotdogs. They can also be used in salsas, hot sauces, guacamole, stews, and bread.
- SHU = 2,500-10,000
At one time, the habanero pepper was considered the hottest pepper in the world. A habanero is 12-140 times hotter than the average jalapeño. Habaneros are primarily used to add heat and spice to various dishes.
- Cook with grilled meats, fish, soups, and stews. They can also be used to make a fiery salsa. Habaneros also complement dishes with tomatoes, avocados, and tropical fruits.
- SHU = 100,000-350,000