Feel the heat with the Scoville app

David Winograd
D. Winograd|04.05.10

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Feel the heat with the Scoville app
I'm a real chili-head. You know, one of those people who chomps on Habanero peppers and buys hot sauce by the case. So I was very interested in trying out the Scoville app (US $1.99) for the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad (which displays it in iPhone size or doubled mode).

Wilbur Scoville devised a test for the rating the strength or pungency of chili peppers in 1912. Ever since, Scoville scores of hot peppers are commonly bandied as bragging rights when trying to convince friends just how hot you can go before your head explodes. The Scoville app gives someone like me all the ammunition he needs as well as providing an encyclopedic amount of information on chilies.

The app is well laid out and easy to use. There are a number of options on the bottom of the screen. The first is a listing of chilies by Scoville units, including its picture, name and Scoville score. The Bell pepper has a score of 0, while the Naga Jolokia pepper can go as high as 1,041,427 units. Tapping on one gives you a large picture of the pepper in question as well as information on alternate names, size, growing location and just about anything else you would want to know. Of course that won't satisfy a chili-head, so the rest of the options are more specific. The next one sorts chilies alphabetically by name, with the letters of the alphabet on the right side of the screen, similar to that in the Contacts app, to make retrieval easier. Tap on the letter and you'll get to the requested first letter.

Any chili-head knows that's not enough information to get the entire job done since chilis have many alternate names. The app handles that, too. I couldn't find a Habanero pepper (my favorite) using names, but using alternate names I found it to be better known as an Orange Habanero. The listings are exhaustive, offering a number of names for many chilies. Tapping on any one of them brings up the information screen.

If you turn your device to landscape mode, you'll be rewarded with a Coverflow version of all the peppers in alphabetical order. Tapping on one superimposes the information screen over the picture. This is nice, but not really all that useful since there is no way to search. If you're looking for a Yatsafusa pepper, for example, prepare to do a lot of swiping.

But wait! There's more. The Scoville scale with background on Wilbur Scoville and information on the best way of taming the heat. Hint: It's not drinking water, eating bread or crunching crackers. I only found out about it a year or so ago while watching a show on The Food Channel and I'm not going to give it away here, so add your guess to the comments.

There is one flaw in the app that I would like to see addressed. When in Coverflow mode, if you tap on a picture to read the text, unless you are holding your device with the dock connector to the left, the text will come out upside-down. I'm sure that can be easily fixed.

I recommend this app highly, and not only because I'm right in the sweet spot of its niche market. It tells me everything I've ever wanted to know about chilies in a well designed and attractive manner, and that's just what a reference app is supposed to do.

I also have a feeling it's going to settle a lot of bar fights.

Take a look at this gallery of screen shots to see how simply and cleanly the app is designed.


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