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Hot peppers and Scoville units

How hot is my pepper?

  • Pepper heat is measured in Scoville units.  Scoville units (shu) are a measure of the amount of capsaicin in a pepper.  Capsaicin is the chemical compound that stimulates nerve endings in the skin and mucous membranes. 
  • Some of the hottest peppers available are habanero peppers.  Habanero and Scotch Bonnet peppers (325,000 to 500,000 shu) are small lantern-shaped peppers (2.5 – 4cm long) that mature from green to red or orange.  They require a long season to mature and should be protected with crop covers and plastic mulch.  Scotch Bonnet peppers are typically smaller than habanero peppers and are popular in Caribbean cuisine.   Recommended cultivars include:  ‘Habanero’ , ‘Caribbean Red’ and ‘Kukulkan’.
  • Thai chilli peppers (150,000 shu) are used mainly in Thai and other Asian curries.  Thai peppers are not more than 2.5cm and length and range in colour from red to green when fully mature.  ‘Flame Hybrid’ is a recommended.
  • Cayenne peppers (60,000 shu) easily mature during the Prairie growing season.  They are usually 12-15cm long and 1-2.5 cm in diameter at the stem end.  Cayenne peppers are used in Cajun recipes, cayenne pepper and many natural medicines in history known for their healing properties.  Recommended cultivars include: ‘Cayenne Long Slim’, ‘Long Cayenne Red’, ‘El Hombre’ and ‘Ring of Fire’.
  • Serrano peppers (25,000 shu) resemble a miniature jalapeno pepper (approximately 3-4 cm long) and mature from waxy green to orange or red.  Usually, the smaller the serrano pepper is, the hotter it is.  ‘Serrano Del Sol’ is recommended.
  • Hot Hungarian Wax peppers (5,000 shu) are light yellow/green, banana shaped and often confused with sweet banana peppers.  ‘Inferno’, ‘Super Hungarian Hot’ and ‘Hungarian Yellow Wax’ are recommended.
  • Jalapeno peppers (5,000 shu), most commonly found on nachos and cheese, start out green and mature to red with their best flavour being produced in late summer and early fall.  Chipotle peppers (slightly hotter than fresh jalapeno peppers) refer to smoked and dried red jalapeno peppers.  Recommended jalapeno peppers include ‘Mucho Nacho’, ‘Early Jalapeno’ and ‘El Jefe’.
  • New Mexico peppers (5,000 shu) are medium sized (10-15 cm long and 4-5cm wide at the stem end), light green peppers maturing to medium green and red.  These peppers are often dried and hung in bunches.  Once dried, New Mexico peppers can easily be frozen.  ‘Chili Grande’ is recommended.
  • An easy, attractive and unique hot peppers to grow is ‘Big Bomb’ which is a hot cherry type that matures to red early in the season; providing hot, attractive green or red peppers for your favourite salsa or chilli. 
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