Digonta Saikia, a farmer has spent his entire life having a hot chili pepper with a weird name and a severe bite. It is known as the “ghost chili” which means “bhut jolokia” in northeast India. It is exceptionally hot and one might even hallucinate after having it.
In record books
As the Guinness World Records has tagged this chili as the “spiciest chili” of the world, the people of the distant hilly region have seen a ray of hope in their otherwise poor living surrounded by bloody revolts. This thumb-sized hot chilly pepper can cover up for the declining tea farming industry.
Even the smallest piece turns a sauce red-hot. A raw slice waters your eyes or nose. But it is a favorite in the hills for centuries – as spice, medicine for stomach problems and a means to sustain extreme summer temperatures.
The exporters are inviting the international groups who were inquisitive about this powerful chili. Governments are taking initiatives to develop it and farmers are planting more bhut jolokia.
There is no chance of getting rich. But a region which hardly receives any good news, a global recognition is a matter of pride and some business.
Leena Saikia, managing director of Frontal AgriTech, an Assam-based lone company exporting bhut jolokia expects to export 10 tons of chilies to about a dozen countries this year. Last year, it was barely a ton. Saikia, who is unrelated to the farmer, added that they are receiving many orders and providing employment to lot of people.
Due to transport problems and government rules, dried chilies and chili paste are exported. But this paste can be used in anything like tear gas or sauces. Because of its high heat intensity, Bhut jolokia can be used in much lesser proportion than normal chilies.
Northeast India is an extremely troubled region due to the negligence of central government where many ethnic militant groups are combating the Indian government or each other. Many places are inaccessible and murders are a daily phenomenon. The long-prevailing tea industry is also declining. One-third populace is below the poverty line.
Ranjana Bhuyan, a local, expects bhut jolokia to bring some change to this brutalized region. The world recognized it few years back from the reports of Defense Research Laboratory of Assam. Tests were conducted during tear gas research but “world’s hottest chili” confirmation came after many years.
It was confirmed by Chile Pepper Institute of New Mexico State University after cultivating the seeds and testing them.
The spiciness of a chili is measured by calculating the amount of capsaicin – chemical responsible for heat intensity – and counted in Scoville units.
Bhut jolokia measured 1,001,304 Scoville units leaving behind Red Savina habanero testing 580,000 Scovilles.
Though little quantities of bhut jolokia are cultivated in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, horticulturists opines that temperatures, humidity and mild sloping hills of northeast India are perfect.
Bhut jolokia plants are very weak, prone to pests and infections and difficult to grow. So the world has to depend on a handful of northeastern towns. Its expanse will require some time.
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