Crop Connect Chronicles

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Lakhori chilli – Unravelling the famous yet obscure Yellow chilli!

The Lakhori chilli is quite a well-known indigenous chilli variety even though there is very little information available about it on the web. Let’s get to know about the chilli that can add remarkable flavor to your culinary adventures!

Bhikiyasain and Salt in Uttarakhand are famous for the Lakhori mirch (chilli). The former is a tehsil while the latter is a block in Almora district of the state and the famous chilli grows only in these areas in spite of futile attempts to grow it in other regions.

AreasFields where the Lakhori chilli is grown

What distinguishes the Lakhori mirch from the other varieties is that it gets a specific type of wrinkle on drying. Interestingly, we asked a lot of people for the etymology of the word ‘Lakhori’ and finally got to know that the variety of chili was first grown in a village called Lakhora in the Garhwal region giving it its name. We were very curious to find out which part of Latin America the original chilli seeds came from to Lakhora but were unable to find this piece of information.

Lakhori chilli has a distinctive yellow colour, thereby giving it the name Yellow chilli. Though it is claimed to be extremely hot, we found it to be pretty unpredictable. We tasted the famous Lakhori chillies from different villages in the region; some were so hot that they brought tears to our eyes while some were mild and piquant.

The Lakhori mirch can be categorized into two types based on their size. The smallest ones, known as Lakori Jamri, have the most number of seeds and are alleged to be used to make chilli flakes. On the other hand, the big ones are used as whole spices or grinded into powder.

Growing chillies requires a lot of hard work compared to other crops. The sowing season varies but is generally around February to March; sown by scattering the seeds around. Harvesting starts in October. Once the chillies are harvested and sun dried correctly, they can be used all round the year. The farmers say that if these chillies are dried again after a period of 2-3 months, they will never go bad thereafter. Cultivation of these chillies benefits them as Lakhori chillies are heavy and yield good financial return for the farmers who sell them by weight.

IMG20170408130358.jpgWomen farmers telling us about the Lakhori chilli that they grow

The local people generally grind it and use it in the powdered form. This way, the heat gets balanced as the chillies vary on the pungency scale.  They also make a spicy achaar (pickle) from it. It is perfect for adding to kadhi, curries and daal after frying in oil as chhonk (tempering). The chilies also make a great garlic chutney, the traditional Maharashtrian Thecha as well as a chilli oil for western and Chinese meals. Moreover, it is said to give an unparalleled flavor to non-vegetarian recipes.

According to the locals, the chillies with more seeds are usually hotter than the rest. Soon after harvesting, the chilli is sold in the local market where people from outside these villages come to buy the produce in bulk. While the whereabouts and end use of the bought produce remains a mystery, we heard stories of the chilli going to Kanpur to be used for making tear gas.

For all the people who love their food hot, spicy and flavoursome, the Lakhori is a must-try!

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The story of our Himalayan Rock Salts!

Our Himalayan Rock Salts are handmade artisanal blends of rock salts with different infusions to give the salt a twist. What’s more, they are blended with the love and hard work of our partner MiraDi Farms, based in Uttarakhand. There is an interesting anecdote behind this. Let’s go back in time and retrace the story of our salts.

On our trips to meet farmers across the hill state of Uttarakhand, we relished the traditional food that they served us. What we particularly liked was the vast variety of infused rock salts they used as accompaniments in meals to enhance the taste. These salts were like magical potions that could make any dish delightful.  Whenever we tasted them, we knew that we had to find a way to make other people enjoy them.

It was on one of these visits that we finally initiated the process. We were at Mr. Ajay Rastogi’s farm in Ranikhet, a place where we had tried the infused rock salts for the first time. Ajay moved to the hills after an illustrious career in environment, agriculture and certification to live a life closer to nature. The salts we had were made by Miradi from the local village, who catered to Ajay’s yoga students’ refreshments and meals as well as was the caretaker of the farm. We interacted with her and came to know that she prepares the delicious salts by herself, as do other Pahadi (mountain) women of the region. We immediately decided to collaborate with her and Ajay and procure the delicious salts from them. Today we source three types of infused rock salts – Garlic, Lemon Rind and Bhangjeera.

MiraDi and Ajay Rastogi interacting with customers at Annamaya

Miradi told us that these salts are a legacy passed down from their ancestors who hand blended them to perfection. She herself has been eating and making them since childhood. The lemon rind rock salt is their (MiraDi and Ajay’s) innovation while the other two salts, garlic and bhangjeera, are traditional.

The making of salts: crushing and grinding the rock salt

Miradi resides in Beguna village near Ranikhet and loves the place with all her heart. She says it is as lovely as a place could be; there is no pollution and the people are hardworking although she hopes there were more livelihood opportunities there.  Her kids, Shreya and Sumit, are adorable and she wants them to be educated properly.

MiraDi with her daughter Shreya

It is an absolute bliss to be working with people like MiraDi who when given the right support and encouragement from mentors like Ajay are determined and hardworking and greet you with the widest smile whenever you meet them. Her salts, just like her, are pure and full of goodness!