Friday, 24 June 2011

Say "Chillieees"

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.
Freshly Harvested Green Chillies
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.


  1. Yummm, chillies! Looking good.

  2. Anita, you KNOW I love anything to do with growing, cooking and eating chillis, so this post of yours obviously appealed to me. I don't recognise the type of chilli plant you have, but you may be interested to join "UK Veg Gardeners" [Link in my sidebar - and despite the name, it's open to people outside the UK], which has a chilli-lovers group. They have some very knowledgable members, one of whom may be able to identify your chilli, particularly if you post a photo of it.

  3. Your photos make the chillies look all the more appetizing! We're big chilli eaters but not too good with names. I'm particularly fond of the bird's eye chilli and sometimes we also have the Bhut Jolokia aka Raja chilli, till recently the hottest chilli in the world. The title now belongs to (sigh) the Infinity (British).Stuffed pickle, bajjis, and everything you mentioned...I love them all!! BTW, that insect is beautiful!

  4. Vasanti said:
    Recently, when I went to "Dessert Island",an ice cream place in Visakhapatnam, I was surprised to see "chilli Ice cream" on the list. Was urged to taste a spoonful of it and found it was a regular ice cream with just a hint of a burning sensation in the throat.

  5. Mark, Thank you for the info on UK Veg Gardeners. Your love for chillies is evident. Even the home page of your blog has a beautiful picture of red chillies.

    Kanak, I didn't know the Bhut Jolokia had been dethroned by the Infinity and when I checked, this is what I found on Wiki -
    So I thought the Naga Viper is the Hottest! But then when I checked further I find that the Trinidad Scorpion Butch T pepper is actually the hottest chilly as of today. I don't know how long it will be before we have a Hotter chilly.

    Though, I've written about it, I've not been adventurous enough in trying out the Chilly ice cream. Should try it the next time.

  6. Love the colour of the red ones and your one chilli plant really are healthy and productive! I dont know why, my chillies used to turn black and rotten not red when they matured (maybe diseased?) , so I picked them when they were still green! But now Ive grown new plants, hope they will be normal..

  7. I have heard of chocolate spiced with chilies but never ice cream. Sounds interesting.

  8. I used to buy different variety of dried chilies and by looking at yours it does look really hot. Lovely blog you have.

  9. @p3chandan: my parents had a "black chilly" plant when I was a kid. Those chillies did not turn red at all. They turned a nice shiny black. We thought of it as an ornamental plant. I have not seen such chillies since.