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Friday, January 22, 2016

celebrating the birth of Scoville ~ the unit of hotness of food !!

Google puts interesting doodles on important days – today it was a game – by  clicking the mouse at the correct point on a sliding bar, you can fire ice cream at the offending chilli to neutralise it, with the game getting more difficult as they get hotter.  Remember Rajni eating chillies in Sivaji, the Boss !

In my early days, have tasted Ferradol, a popular food supplement of Parke-Davis.  It was marketed well as good to health containing calcium and zinc as supplement against -  Iron-deficiency anemia, and various salts or complexes of iron are used as hematinics.  In 1990s in Kakinada, there were so many Medical representatives known.  On a particular day, this representative was speaking about ‘middle class mentality’ of mother going to Doctors suggesting the Dr. to prescribe Ferradol and similar iron tonics – paying the Dr fatly and feeling happy. He took a bottle of tonic, drank it in one gulp and continued – whole bottle would do nothing, while people believe that 1 tsp a day would do wonders to their health. 

Getting back, today’s doodle is on an American pharmacist best known for his creation of the "ScovilleOrganoleptic Test", now standardized as the Scoville scale. He devised the test and scale in 1912 while working at the Parke-Davis pharmaceutical company to measure pungency, "spiciness" or "heat", of various chili peppers.

It is Wilbur Lincoln Scoville whose 151st birthday was remembered.  Born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, in 1865, Scoville was a pharmacist, not a chef. And in his lifetime he was best known for his textbook The Art of Compounding, which was used as a reference material until well into the 1960s. But in addition to his academic research, he did practical work in the laboratories of the pharmaceutical company Parke-Davis, which in its day was America's largest drugmaker. It was as a Parke-Davis employee — standing at the intersection of academic pharmacology and the practical needs of industry — that he developed both the "organoleptic test" of pepper heat and the Scoville scale to measure it, for which he is widely known today.

As John McQuaid recounts in his book Tasty, Scoville invented his scale as part of an effort to improve the production of Heet liniment, Parke-Davis's painkilling cream. The active ingredient in Heet was capsaicin, the key chemical that makes chili peppers spicy. To produce the cream, Parke-Davis needed to extract capsaicin from peppers. And to ensure the cream had a proper dosage of capsaicin, the company wanted to better measure how much was present in different peppers.

These days, you could directly measure capsaicin using high-performance liquid chromatography, but in 1912 the best they could do was use the human sense of taste ! The problem was that while it's easy to say that jalapeños are hotter than banana peppers but milder than habaneros, a pharmaceutical company needs to be able to quantify this precisely. Scoville's method was to dry out peppers and then dissolve a specific weight of dried pepper in oil in order to extract the flavorful compounds. The extract was then diluted in sugar water and given to a panel of five tasters. The amount of sugar needed to make the spiciness undetectable to a majority of tasters determines the Scoville rating of the pepper.

Till a couple of years back,  the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion was known as the world's hottest chile pepper. Just as Naga Viper was beaten – it is now the Carolina Reaper grown by Ed Currie of PuckerButt Pepper Co. in South Carolina. The pepper rates an average of 1,569,300 Scoville heat units, as tested by Winthrop University in South Carolina throughout 2012, says the Guinness entry.

Well, one thought that dining is necessity and for pleasure ! – and scoville ??

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
22nd Jan 2016

Largely reproduced from vox.com

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