In addition to our rack of assorted whole and ground dried chiles in packages, we now carry selected dried chiles in bulk.
When fresh, it is known as a Mirasol chile. Heat rating: 2,500 to 5,000 SHU*. Uses: sauces, salsa. The skin is tough, so it needs to be soaked longer than other chiles.
A smoked jalapeño. Heat rating: 3,000 to 10,000 SHU*. Uses: stews, braised meats.
Chile de Árbol
Same name fresh or dry. Heat rating: 30,000 to 60,000 SHU*. Uses: wreaths (they keep their bright red color when dried), soups and stews.
So, what makes a hot pepper hot? The chemical compound capsaicin, found in the membranes and around (but not in) the seeds of the chile, causes a reaction with the same nerve endings in the mouth that react to burning and abrasion. So your brain registers capsaicin, not via the taste buds, but through the pain sensors.
*SHU (Scoville Heat Units) are the measure of a chile’s pungency. For reference, a bell pepper has 0 SHU, a fresh jalapeño has between 3,500 and 8,000 SHU, and a habanero has 250,000 to 300,000 SHU. An Indian ghost pepper (bhut jolokia) may have a rating of 1 million. The current heat champion is the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion chile, with over 2 million SHU, the equivalent of pepper spray.
Images by Jim McKay