About the Wild and the Cultivated Chile Pepper

Because of local soil and climate conditions rating the fruits of the Capsicum plant can deviate from a pre-established heat pungency scale. Generally under hot and dry weather conditions chiles grow more pungent; and mature pods tend to be more pungent than those not yet fully ripe. Usually the hottest part of a chile is the inside tissue that holds the seeds and the fruit’s pungency seems to decrease from the stem end to the tip of the pod.
In 1912 the American pharmacologist Wilbur Scoville put together a chile heat unit scale based on an organoleptic test experiment which measured how humans react to certain chiles; in time the scale became known as the Scoville Heat Unit Scale. In 1980 further tests methods developed by the American scientist  James Woodbury brought forth the Alex Model 322 a high pressure liquid chromatography system that measured the “burning” sensation of the chiles (D.De Witt and N. Gerlach p.240-244).
In time, pungency or spiciness and flavor of chiles have been measured and ranked according to various scientific heat unit scales. On a pungency and flavor scale between 300,000 and 50 Scoville heat units, besides the very small wild bird sized Piquin, Chiltepin, also called Tepin, the more pungent of all chiles are the Habanero chiles and the mildest are the chiles that are commonly called bell peppers or sweet peppers. Of course, taste and pungency of chiles are a relative and personal experience which usually is the result of an aquired taste as is tolerance to extremely hot foods that sometimes can give a intolerant feeling of pungency as if the tongue were to feel off and the breathing were to stop. Most commonly prepared Hispanic North American dishes use chiles that average 30,000 Scoville heat units; Northern Italian dishes use very much the mild bell peppers (about 50 Scoville Heat Units) and which come in various colors and are often prepared roasted and the dried powdered paprika peppers (ranging between 30,000 and 500 Scoville Heat Units) which were made famous with a Hungarian spice called paprika and a dish called goulash which in the 16th century migrated from Hungary to Austria and Northern Italy http://www.puszta.com/eng/programs/cikk/paprika_muzeum_kalocsa

Sweet Peppers - copyrights incl. electronic by E. M. Giacon Castleman

Sweet Peppers – copyrights incl. electronic by E. M. Giacon Castleman 2014

Commercial Gulasch Powder - copyrights incl. electronic rights by E. M. Giacon Castleman

Commercial Gulasch Powder – copyrights incl. electronic rights by E. M. Giacon Castleman 2014

GULASCH, also called Gulyas, Gollasch, Golaschfleisch, Kollaschfleisch, Goulasch or Goulash is a Austro-Hungarian soupy meat stew prepared with cubed meat, onions, garlic, ground caraway seeds, marjoram, tomatoes, paprika, possibly tomato paste, beef broth and sometimes water diluted vinegar. It became a specialty in Hungary and throughout Habsburg ruled regions especially after the 16th century (Maier Bruck p.247-250). Stories around the creation of goulash report of Hungarian herdsmen (called Gulyas in Magyar Hungarian language) preparing the meat stew with paprika spice ground from dried Hungary grown chiles. The very first goulash stews were prepared from meat of mutton, venison or sheep and lamb. Goulash was entrenched in Austrian Hungarian cuisine when Austrian cookbook Dorn published in 1827 a well publicized cookbook. Gulasch crossed the Alpine culinary borders from Austria into Northern Italy when during the 19th and 20th century Austria ruled over several regions of Northern Italy. Today’s classic goulash dishes include several regional variations, such as Saftgulyas also called Wiener Gulasch (soupy goulash), Rindsgulasch (beef goulash), Debreziner Gulasch (goulash with spicy Hungarian sausage), Fiakergulasch (goulash served with fried egg, pickles and Viennese sausage), Bauerngulasch (goulash served with bread dumplings), Kaisergulasch (goulash served in creamy gravy and egg noodles), Serbisches Gulasch (goulash prepared with the addition of sweet peppers and tomatoes), Gulasch auf Fiumer Art (goulash prepared with cubed Speck bacon potatoes and cabbage), Triester Gulasch (goulash served with “polenta”), Schwammerlgulasch (goulash prepared from chantarelle mushrooms), Schweinsgulasch (goulash made from pork meat), Wirtschaftsgulasch (goulash made from pork meat with the addition of beans), Tiroler Huettengulasch (goulash made from beef shank and beef neck meat), Gulasch di Nasello (goulash made from firm filet of fish) and Gulasch alla Trentina (Trentino style goulash), Gulash alla Triestina (Trieste style goulash)and Gulasch alla Pusterese (Pusteria Valley style goulash) (Maier Bruck p.253; Exenberger Breit p. 77-78; Giulia Lazzari Turco p. 102; Domus p. 168; Gosetti dalla Salda p.345; Pantagruel/Corriere della Sera insert about Alto Adige; Kompatscher p.35).
PAPRIKA for goulash is available in eight “pungency” varieties which range from sweet to mildly hot and to very hot. Usually paprika’s color indicates the degree of pungency. Rozsa is the mildest variety and Eros is the hottest. Bright red paprika varieties include the “Feledes (Half Sweet)” and the “Edesnemes”(Noble Sweet); the pale brown and reddish paprika powder called “Csipos Csemege” is among the hottest varieties of paprika (http://www.budapestbylocals.com/hungarian-paprika.html#types)

Paprika spice - copyrights incl. electronic rights by E. M. Giacon Castleman 2014

Paprika spice – copyrights incl. electronic rights by E. M. Giacon Castleman 2014

Paprika peppers - copyrights incl. electronic rights by E. M. Giacon castleman 2014

Paprika peppers – copyrights incl. electronic rights by E. M. Giacon Castleman 2014


FIERY CHILES – 300,000-150,000 Scoville Heat Units (fiery meltdown fruit flavor): Orange Habanero also called Scotch Bonnet or Bahamian

SUPER HOT CHILES – 150,000-60,000 Scoville Heat Units (very hot and pungent): Red Habanero, Tabasco, Chiltepin, Tepin, Piquin also called Bird’s Eye Chile

HOT CHILES – 60,000-10,000 Scoville Heat Units (hot and sometimes acidic in flavor): Manzano also called Peron, Caballo, Ciruelo, Canario, Chamburado, Cera or Malinalco; De Arbol also called Chile de Arbol, Pico de Pajaro, Bravo, Alfilerillo, Cola de Rata or San Juanero; Yellow Wax, Guero, Serrano also called Verde or Serranito and a very hot variety of Hungarian Paprika pepper.

MEDIUM HOT CHILES – 10,000-1,500 Scoville Heat Units (medium hot, often fruity flavor and can decrease in pungency if freed from seeds): Jalapeno also called Cuaresmeno, Gordo, Huachinango, Chile de Agua, Peludo, Espinalteco, Pinalteco, Bolita, Candelaria, Jarocho, Papaloapan, Rayado, San Andres, Tipico, Tres Lomos or Achorchado; Mirasol also called Puya, Miracielo, Mira Pal Cielo, Parado, or La Blanca; Pasilla also called Pasilla de Oaxaca, Mexican Pasilla, Chilaca, Negro, Prieto, Cuernillo, Chile de Pasilla or Chile para Desehebrar. When smoked Jalapeno chiles are called Chipotle, Ahumado, Meco, Mora, Morita or Pocchilli and the Mirasol is also called Guajillo, Puya, Cascabel and Catarina.

MILDLY HOT CHILES – 2,500-1,000 Scoville Heat Units (mild and flavorful – best used grilled): Guero also called Guerito, Caloro, Caribe, Cristalino, Carricillo, Largo, Tornachile, Trompita, Cristal; Poblano also called Corazon, Miahuateco, or Roque; the Paprika; the Mulato, the Sandia, the New Mexican, the Big Jim and the Anaheim. When smoked Guero and Poblano are called Chilhuacle and Ancho.

CHILES THAT ARE ALMOST SWEET AND ALSO CALLED PEPPERS OR BELL PEPPERS OR SWEET PEPPERS – 500-00 Scoville Heat Units (often used stuffed with rice, meat or roasted and peeled, served with appetizers): Red Naky, the Banana Pepper, the Mexi-Bell, the milder Hungarian Paprika pepper, the Cherry Chile also called Pimento or Pimenton Moro or Dulce, the Bell, the Chile Verde, the Italian pepper and the Californian Gonder and Early Gonder.


GOULASC – is the standard term that describes a more or less spicy Hungarian, Austrian and Northern Italian meat stew that is red and prepared with paprika powder.

PAPRIKA – is the standard term used throughout Hungary, Austria, Northern Italy and world wide to define dried and ground or powdered chile pods that were originally planted and grown in Hungary after the Spaniards brought chilies from the New World into Europe. Paprika is the indispensable spice for Northern Italian gulasch and several other specialties.

PEPERONE OR PEPERONI – is the standard term used by Italians to define the bell pepper, a mild version of the fruit of the Capsicum. Northern Italian bell peppers are generally available in red, yellow, green, and orange.

PEPERONCINO – is the standard Italian term used to describe either dried or flaked red chile pods grown in Italy or the green small spicy peppers that often are canned and served as Italian appetizer with cold cuts. The red flakes are often such to prepare Southern Italian dishes such as spaghetti olio aglio e peperoncino, or in penne alla puttanesca. Peperoncino is used also in spicy dishes that then are labeled all’ arrabiata (literal translation: the fiery or angry way).

PEPERONATA – standard term used in Italian to define a dish that is prepared from bell peppers sautéed in olive oil with or without garlic or onions and with or without tomatoes. The term peperonata is sometimes mistakenly used to indicate Peara’ which in the Veneto region is a sauce prepared with bread crumbs, broth, beef tallow or lard, and ground black pepper.

ASTA COLOR UNIT – is the standard unit scale used to determine the amount of extractable oil soluble color that is obtained from the Capsicum’s fruit or Capsicum’s based powder

CHILES, also called Chile Pods or Chili Peppers – a standard Hispanic North American and Anglo North American term used to describe chile peppers the fruits of the Capsicum whether they are spicy, mild or medium hot.

CAYENNE POWDER, also cayenne pepper, or red pepper (Italian term: Pepe di Caienna) – is the standard term used to describe a hot pungent red powder made from dried cayenne type of chile pods; this chile came originally from South American French Guyana

CHILE PODS – standard North American term used to define the whole fruits of the Capsicum plant whether the pods are fresh or dried

CHILE PEPPERS – standard North American term used to define dried and fresh fruits of the Capsicum plant

CHILE BLENDS – standard North American term for powdered spice mixtures which include ground chiles

CHILI, also called Chili con Carne, or Bowl of Red – standard term used to define a Southwestern North American dish that includes meat seasoned with chile powders or chile blends or dried and ground or fresh and minces chile pods

CHILE – located in South America is believed to be the ancient country of origin of chile pods when Christopher Columbus discovered American in 1492

CHILE POWDER, also called Chili Powder – is the standard term used to define a blend of ground chile pods.

MOLES – Standard term used in Nahuatl, Mexican Spanish and Hispanic North American language to define a saucy more or less spicy concoction that is usually served with various types of poultry meats. Generally mole is a smooth rich cooked sauce that blends various seeds, onion, garlic, chiles and chocolate. Moles represent the culinary union between the Middle East and Europe and the cuisine of Meso-America. Prior to the arrival of the Spaniards, major Native American spices and ingredients were: allspice, chiles, chocolate, tomatoes, vanilla, pumpkin seeds, onion grasses and herbs similar to oregano. Pepper, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and mace, ginger, caraway, cumin, and saffron were added later by the Spaniards

PIMENTON, also called Pimento or Pimiento – is the standard Spanish and Hispanic North American term used to describe a small heart shaped red pepper and the red spice that is obtained from the fairly mild pepper after it is dried and ground. Pimento is very similar to Paprika. The pimento is also sold canned, preserved in glass jars or used to stuff olives (Italian term: Pepe garofanato or peperone vero)

PEPERONI, also called Pepperoni – is the standard Anglo American term usually used in the United States to define a dense reddish spicy two inches wide type of sausage that is commonly used to top American style pizzas made popular by South Italian emigrants who spiced their sausages with the Italian grown “peperoncino” chile

RISTA – Garlic heads braided together in a bunch available throughout Hispanic North American markets almost indespensable to prepare Chili con Carne

SARTA – Ripe chiles strung together in a bunch made available on Hispanic North American markets

SCAN COLOR UNIT – a term used to determine the different shades of color of the Capsicum, evaluated by a light-reflectance measuring equipment

SCOVILLE HEAT UNIT – see above – is the standard unit scale used to determine the different degrees of pungency of the Capsicum and any Capsicum containing product named after the scientist who developed this measuring method


There are about 40,000 self declared “CHILIHEADS” throughout today’s Hispanic and Anglo North America. “CHILIHEAD”S” are the passionate fans of the dish who are generally members of two major associations the C.A.S.I (Chili Appreciation Society International) and the I.C.S (International Chili Society) which support all that is related to chili. “CHILIHEADS” call their president the “GREAT PEPPER,” the treasurer the “CHILI PENNY,” the vice president the “VICE PEPPER,” and the secretary who takes notes during meetings “CHILI SCRIBE.” The entire group of members generally is called “the POD.” Both associations organize chili cook offs and meetings and seem to exist mainly for the purpose of organizing, cooking, eating, and competing in contests that every year end in a national award earned by the best dish and recipe. Officially sanctioned C.A.S.I or I.C.S. events are called “chili cook offs” and take place anywhere. C.A.S.I, for example, prides itself in sponsoring at least 600 cook offs every year with a membership which honors the society chapter as church goers honor their own church.
Chili cook offs can be either a gathering of ten or fifteen “CHILIHEADS” in the “GREAT PEPPER’S” backyard or an interstate event with 400-500 chili cooks cooking and being judged by a jury that every year assigns the award to the best. Finals occur either in TERLINGUA, Texas, or in PASADENA, California where then the most fervent of CHILIHEADS develop or perfect their chili recipes; love of chili then crosses all barriers of race, religion, socio economic status, job, age, nationality or political persuasion.


When in 1951 two “Chiliheads,” one George Haddaway and one Jim Fuller, started the first American Chili Society, also called C.A.S.I (Chili Appreciation Society International), chili’s culinary glory became officially entrenched in American Southwestern cuisine. In 1967 C.A.S.I.’s first chili cook off competition in Terlingua, Texas, found various chiliheads lined up including a Wick Fowler, creator of a Two Alarm Chili Mix, and an Allen Smith, cartoonist and food commentator. The contest between the two to find out the best chili recipe ended in a draw. A second chili cookoff also ended in a draw with the ballot box stolen by a masked man with a gun.

Fifteen years later, the global chilihead community split into two chili societies because a hot tempered argument between the two founders of C.A.S. I. All was about whether or not opening the chili cooking contest to two outsiders who had not met all the old original requirements. After the split the new “chili head” societies became known as International Chili Society while the other was named C.A.S.I. (Chili Appreciation Society International). In time from the burning ashes of this confrontation a new group was founded and simply called I.C.S. (International Chili Society).
For more information on this: C.A.S.I at 1516, Prarie Drive, El Paso, 79925 Texas, U.S.A. or I.C.S. P.O. Box 2966, Newport Beach, 92663 California, U.S.A.

About Chili Cook Offs 

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