What you didn't know about shishito peppers

Wrinkly, thin-skinned shishito peppers are the trendy little appetizer or snack that you'll find on restaurant menus preceded by cool adjectives like "blistered" and "charred." By the looks of them, uninformed bystanders may think you're chowing down on fiery hot chili peppers and perhaps that's part of the allure. Withstanding spicy food is a point of pride for some folks, as evidenced by entertaining shows like Hot Ones. Shishitos are a different story, though. Even the most delicate of palettes with a taste for peppers can enjoy them.

Shishitos are native to Japan and get their name from the Japanese word "shishi" meaning "lion" because the creased tip of the pepper looks like a lion head (via Specialty Produce). These curvy, crisp peppers are high in fiber and immune-boosting vitamins A, B6, C, and K. They've gained widespread popularity in the U.S., and that may be thanks to the fun involved in eating them. Due to growing conditions, plant stress, and other factors, roughly one in every 10 shishitos packs a bit of a spicy punch – something Chili Pepper Madness says lends the eating experience a "Russian roulette" quality. But how hot is a hot shishito? Not very, it turns out.

One in ten shishitos is a surprise but not one you'll regret

Shishito peppers in general are pretty mild. Nine out of ten shishitos typically register as low as 50 heat units on the Scoville Scale. The occasional shishito that qualifies as "spicy" actually only measures 200 Scoville units, according to Chili Pepper Madness. The Scoville Scale was invented in 1912 by pharmacologist Wilbur Scoville, and it's used to measure the pungency of peppers and chilies (via Alimentarium). The scale tops out at 15 billion units, which is understandably notated on the scale as "harmful".

Shishitos ranging from 50 to 200 units can be compared in spiciness to bell peppers – child's play to extreme heat seekers. Those "spicy" shishitos are more of a fun surprise than something that's going to light your mouth on fire. Pepper Scale says the hotter shishitos don't even match the heat of a mild jalapeno. In fact, shishito's flavor can be described as grassy, citrusy, and smoky. Certainly nothing dangerous but delicious all the same. So, the next time you're in the mood for a peppery snack that's full of flavor but won't melt your insides, shishitos might be just the thing for you.