Spices have been my favourite area of study & as a known fact I’ve a soft corner for chillies! My quest for Spicy encounters, or let’s say, my “Spice Route”, have led me to Mathania, Goa & Bhavnagar leaving me ever so intrigued.
Next in my map was Byadagi, a trip I was finally able to make last year.
Story goes that roughly 240 kms around Byadagi, the night frost & the rains are just perfect for the non-spicy chilli production, rendering that unique sweet flavour that’s synonymous with the Byadagi Chillies. As you start from Shivamogga, you can sense the nip in the air & one begins to understand why the climate would be conducive to this particular chilli production.
The soil, climate & the land seem made-to-order for the cultivation. Irrigated lands can induce only so much taste to any produce, vis a vis rain-fed lands that surround this region, which in turn reflects in the chilli’s flavour profile.
According to the growers & experts, this shriveling of the Byadagi/ Bedgi/Byadgi chilli is very important & a unique identifier. They say the shriveling resembles a Rudraksh.
Technically, any thick-skinned chilli will always shrivel up, compared to a thin-skinned one, like the Guntur variety. As a rule, the thicker skinned chillies will typically have more colour & will be sweeter. So, as the Byadgi chilli shrivels, it loses the moisture helping the colour & the sweetness to concentrate.
The harvest begins in November & continues till March across regions. You can get the chillies till May too, in the dried form. The market then shuts in June, to reopen only in October.
The 2nd interesting aspect is the pungency line & literally so. The locals test a Byadgi by tasting the line through which the seeds are threaded. This then becomes the deciding factor for determining the pungency quotient, neither the skin nor the seeds.
Here are some spicy bits to close the story with..
· Byadgi chilli ranks high on the ASTA, beating the Mathania even!
· The chilli was accorded a GI tag in 2011
· The so-called ‘Kashmiri chillli’ is usually 100% Byadgi or at least a blend of it.
· There are 2 varieties – Dabbi & Kaddi, the former being smaller & roundish.