TURNING UP THE HEAT
Last week we featured chokos, one of the three veg that we ate with a meat of some sort. Needing a slab of butter to melt over the squash-like texture, followed by a hefty hit of salt and pepper, it became somewhat edible.
If that was indicative of our cuisine not so long ago, our tastebuds have shot through like the proverbial Bondi tram of the time.
Can you remember your first encounter with chilli? Maybe the closest you came to “hot and spicy” was a Keen’s sweet curry with sultanas, apple and banana to accompany some extra sausages or leftover lamb.
Chilli has slowly and maybe not so subtly permeated our dining habits and tastebuds with slow but certain addiction. In fact, it is now what the old tomato sauce used to be, swamped over just about everything on its way to our mouths. It’s the capsaicinoids within that create the kick.
Chilli is easy to grow. Testament to this are the little red perennial bird’s eyes that seem to come from nowhere like weeds and have a hit like an atomic blast that is the equivalent to a category five cyclone or an earthquake of 10 on the Richter scale.
Bird’s eye chillies are rated about the 100,000 to 350,000 Scoville Heat Units (SHU) on the chilli scale. This is tame when it comes to police pepper spray, which is rated at 2,500,000 to 5,000,000 SHU.
Seems the more we indulge in chilli, the more we are hooked – the hotter the better. At what stage does the taste of the food disappear and we then consider sucking on the bottle instead?
We can grow chillies quite easily. Seeds from chilli bought in a shop or market can be dried and planted now into a seed-raising mix or directly into the ground, where they are intended to spend their life.
Lazy gardeners use ready-grown seedlings. The long red, scotch bonnet (squat yellow) if you dare, jalapeno and habanero are all possibilities. Green chillies are simply the earlier version of the more ripe red.
Good-quality composted and well-drained soils that get direct sun for most of the day will produce a fruitful plant, or grow them in a large pot in a sunny corner.
If you grow a “cool” cucumber vine (“crystal apple”, the old round white skin variety if possible), mixing with plain yoghurt will help douse the fire in your mouth from a chilli hit that went too far. Just imagine what it does to unwanted insects devouring your crop.