I was born and mostly raised in the land of Chillies – Andhra Pradesh. The typical Andhraite loves his food searingly hot and spicy. Often, after a traditional Andhra meal, my mouth and fingers would burn for long time. My gut would be on fire and I would have to douse it with a large cup of curd or butter milk. Yet in my own home, chillies were sparingly used. So I never quite honed my taste buds to savour these peppers. That was until I grew my own. Growing vegetables has made me deeply appreciative of the food I eat. I’ve become more aware of their freshness and taste. As for chillies, they’ve regained their rightful place in the kitchen.
When my neighbour was growing chillies, she offered me a young seedling, which I readily accepted. The seedling has grown into a large bushy plant now and is quite prolific. When young, the chilly is light green, has a wrinkled appearance and is rather long, often with a twisted end. Later, it turns a beautiful bright red. It could very well be the Indian Jwala (volcano) variety but I’m not sure. I’m hoping that a reader will help me identify it correctly. Googling hasn’t quite helped; instead I’ve come across this great link on some chilly FAQs, which I’d like to share with you. It has some useful tips on how to preserve chillies for a longer time, how to reduce the burning sensation when handling them, etc.
|Tiny, White Chilly Bloom|
|Chilli Plant with Chillies|
For my small family, which consumes few chillies, this single plant is all we need. One advantage of having your own chilly plant is that you can harvest chillies as per your tolerance levels. Most chillies turn hotter as they mature. Having my own plant now makes it’s very easy for me to choose a tender young chilly that’s just the degree of hotness that will suit my three-year-old. If my green chillies are left longer on the plant, they turn a fiery red with a hotness that’s mind numbing. When I bit into a fresh red chilly from my plant, for a few minutes, I didn’t know what hit me. It seemed like a volcano had erupted in my mouth.
|Tender, Young Chillies: Less Hot|
|Red Chilly on the Plant|
|Colour Contrasts: Red Chilly Drying and Yellow Spotted Insect|
Though fresh red chillies can be ground and used in Thai red curry pastes and similarly spicy hot preparations, I prefer to use them whole, after drying. They seem a lot tamer that way. The standard South Indian seasoning I frequently use, calls for whole dry red chillies, mustard seeds and curry leaves fried for just a few seconds in hot oil. If done right, the aroma of this seasoning is heavenly. There are so many more exciting ways to use chillies: a hint of green chillies in jam or fruit juice, spicy hot chutneys, finger licking stuffed red chilly pickles, green chilly ice cream, chilly Bajjis on a rainy day, Mexican chocolate and chilly sauce and I’ve even heard of chilly beer.