Value of Naga King Chilli
[dropcap]I[/dropcap]t was without presumption but that a Naga would win the chilli eating competition. So Chetie Khiamngan won and became richer by Rs 20,000. What was a pleasant surprise that maiden Amulaya also won in the ladies category. This contest is based on certain traditions.
The Naga King Chilli (Capsicum Chinense/Frutescens) is a traditional food item of the Naga people. Nagaland is believed to be the original home of this chilli pepper and Nagaland Government has obtained the GI rights for this product in 2008. The Nagaland government had in 1999 passed the Nagaland Geographical Indication of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, to provide some safety net to Naga farmers in the cultivation of the King Chilli.This chilli is also found in Assam, Manipur, particularly the hills areas, and Bangladesh where it is believed that Naga insurgents had taken the product there for their consumption and provided the first seeds when they went to East Pakistan for arms training. Some Nagas believe that this was how the Dorset Naga was also discovered.
This chilli pepper is called by various names such as Naga Jolokia, Naga Morich, Bhut Jolokia, Bih Jolokia etc. Whatever the names by which it is called, they seem to be only different varieties of the same chilli. Nagaland Government has found that there are four varieties of the Naga King Chilli pepper, each distinct. The hotness of the chilli is undisputed.
The Guinness Book of World Records had awarded this chilli pepper the status of the hottest in the world. A Naga folk tale also talks about a bet between two friends on eating a certain amount of this chilli. One of them died after fulfilling the bet by consuming the agreed number of chillies.
King chilli has a distinct taste and pungency although some may need to acquire the taste. While some cannot even touch it, some consume about 3-7 whole pods in one (meal) sitting, using it in both their curry and as a chutney. With some people, it seems the chilli becomes addictive as they can no longer enjoy their food without the same heat! (Just beware, Americans might steal it and give it another name just as they did in the case of the Basmati rice!)
The Naga King Chilli, despite its reputation, is actually a very sensitive and vulnerable item. Even after germination of the seeds, and planting/transplanting very good looking saplings, the trees may not fruit at all for instance if there was very heavy rains or no rains at all. After harvest, it has very little staying power and easily rots. And when it rots, it is like, or worse than, the proverbial rotten tomato, making all others rot!
As per findings of Professor Paul Bosland, of New Mexico State University Chile Pepper Institute, in 2005, the SHU (Scoville heat unit) rating was 1,001,304. Earlier, in 2004, Frontal Agritech of Assam, had claimed a rating of 1, 041,427 SHUs. This meant that the Naga Jolokia has almost two times the heat of the Red Savina Pepper which was earlier the hottest chilli pepper in the world.
SHU is how the heat of a chilli pepper is measured. This measurement system is named after Wilbur Scoville a chemist who worked out a system of diluting grounded chillies in sugar solution till there was no more heat left. Other methods of measuring the heat of a chilli pepper have since been developed which some believe are more accurate.
Naga King Chilli is used as an everyday food item by Nagas. Indeed, the highest concentration of this chilli consumption is among Naga people themselves. The product is highly prized and the cost, accordingly, is also the highest in Naga society. It is used in many forms as fresh, dried, powdered and in pickled forms. It is used in all kinds of food preparations.
Some Nagas use crushed/powdered Naga King chilli as a pesticide to protect crops from insects/harmful bacteria. In Assam, some environmental NGOs also use this chilli as protection against the depredations of wild elephants.
Apart from it being the major ingredient used in the manufacture of hot sauces by a wide variety of food manufacturers, both big and small,
Capsaicin is also used as the basis for a tropical analgesic used for alleviating muscle and joint pain, such as that attributable to osteoarthritis, and sold under such brand names as Capsin, Capzasin-P, Dolorac, Zacin and Zostrix, whilst pepper spray pepper, otherwise known as Oleoresin Capsicum spray, which is beloved of law enforcement agencies across North America, is produced from the oils extracted from chilli peppers. (Which is incidentally the reason why the Indian Defense Research Laboratory was interested in the first place.)
In particular, the Assamese Bhut/Bih/Naga Jolokia can apparently frighten off elephants, and the Assam Haathi Project has been experimenting with the construction of smoke bombs containing dry chilli and smearing fences with chilli oil in order to deter wild elephants from encroaching on farmland.
As concerns the nutritional value and usefulness, the ripe red chillies contain vitamin A, B and C. The unripe yellow and green chillies also contain these vitamins but less. They contain potassium, magnesium and iron.
According to reports, chillies do the following: – Fight cancer cells; help in fighting obesity for those with weight problems; helps cells to produce insulin again in Type 1 diabetes patients; fights bad cholesterol and prevents or delays heart diseases; provides relief from diseases like rhinitis and hanti-ulcer protective effect on stomachs; believed to have anaesthetic effects to block out pain and may be used to treat chronic pain in future.
The possible risks are high consumption could cause stomach cancer; may contain carcinogenic substances; could induce gastro-esophageal reflux; chillies should not be swallowed whole.
Until about 10-15 years ago, the Naga King Chilli used to be mentioned in respectful and fearful tones in Naga homes because it was so hot. This respect and fear began to disappear when some gastric patients declared that they were cured of their ailment after consuming the King Chilli for sometime.
The Naga King Chilli, possibly, the only chilli that contains genes of both Capsicum Frutescens and Capsicum Chinense, is said to be a circulatory stimulant and also used in treatment of Atherosclerosis, shock, hemorrhage, heart attack etc. It is said to combine well with many herbal medicinal treatments.
According to medical research, Chilies, in general, help in treatment of cancer by killing bad cells, obesity through weight loss, diabetes by reducing required insulin to lower blood sugar, heart diseases by preventing/delaying oxidation of bad cholesterol, rhinitis and bronchitis through thinning of mucus, and also reduces chronic pain. It is said to even assist in food preservation.
In any case, the common properties of chilli are Vitamins C, A, B and B6. They contain high percentage of potassium, magnesium and iron as well as anti-ulcer properties.
King Chilli (with due respects to King Khan) like most legends also has a history and the more you know about it, the more you will relish this unique pepper.
Thus enjoy your food deliciously!