Dionysian orgy of chilli mania

 This is my 20th article in the Mercury Food and Wine supplement.

Farming is a serous business. Bills and wages have to be paid and one cannot take ones eye off the ball for a moment, otherwise things will go wrong. The income stream must be maintained. Unfortunately this makes a lot of farmers very conservative in their methodology.You stick with what works, at least then you have some predictability.

Introducing new crops or even varieties could turn out disastrous, or it could also be rather profitable. However farming can also be fun, especially when trying out new crops.

The safest way to explore new crops is to do so on a small garden scale, especially where there is a large choice in varieties, such as chillies.

This year I was given seed from a wide range of chilli varieties to experiment with. It was a tantalising mix, ranging from the lethal Naga Morich to the diminutive Tepin. The seeds were sent to the nursery where they were sown in seedling trays. Records were kept of germination and rate of seedling growth. Finally they were transplanted into the formal garden where a close watch could be kept on them.

Variety… the burning hot spice of life.

The meticulous record keeping soon transformed into a Dionysian orgy of chilli mania. The variety of fruits was fascinating. The little red upright tepins, birds-eyes and tabascos. The fat, glossy jalapeno’s, the bright yellow and red habenero’s and the sinister, wrinkled naga morich and bhut jolokia.

Apart from the piquancy range, the difference in taste and the way the piquancy was perceived was intriguing. Sauces were made from the different varieties and we became experts on the nuances of chilli gastronomy.

The heat from a tepin is rough and hits you in the front of the mouth but dissipates quickly. The habenero’s were hot, as expected, with a distinctive taste. The surprise was the naga morich. We were wary of this chilli, as it is rated at between 850,000 and 1,4000,000 units on the Scoville scale. This scale is a rating of piquancy, or heat, as perceived in a taste test. Our respect for the naga morich is justified when a habenero only scores between 100,000 and 350,000 units while tabasco sauce sits at between a measly 3,500 to 8000 Scoville units.

I used two naga morich chillies, sans seeds, to make a large chilli con carne. The fumes emitted when the chillies hit the hot oil were weapons grade, and made me despair of the edibility of my endeavours. However the result was gratifying.

It was hot, but the heat was only felt at the back of the mouth and eating felt like downing a large tot of tequila as the heat spread down to the stomach. There was no burning tongue. Truly a Rolls Royce of chillies.

This is what chilli-mania does. I was meant to be writing a column on farming. What this deviation illustrates is the pleasure obtained from growing food when it is taken from the fields, through the kitchen to the table. Farming is not just about taking your produce to the market but it should be about the whole process, from field to fork.

 

http://www.broadleaze.co.za

About Rob Symons

My name is Rob Symons. I live in Pietermaritzburg, kwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. MuthiMuthi is my Zulu nickname which means tall tree. I am an Organic Farmer and an environmentalist. I live and work on Broadleaze Farm in the Mkondeni valley on the eastern outskirts of Pietermaritzburg.
This entry was posted in farming, Gardening, Lifestyle, Mercury Food and Wine articles and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s