The quaint town of Bhiwapur in Nagpur district is famous for its bright red chillies. This crop has been cultivated for decades in Bhiwapur, Kuhi and Umred. Locals say that Bhiwapur has been the largest chilli market in the district since the 1960s.
Bhiwapur derives its name from the presiding deity Goddess Bhima and the chilli from the name of the town. Records state that the total production of chillies in the town is about 1.5 percent of the total production of chillies in Nagpur district.
The agro-climatic conditions found in Bhiwapur namely the soil that has good water holding capacity, rich in micronutrients with optimum amount of iron, manganese and copper which gives it the distinctive red colour, average annual rainfall between 1250 to 1350 mm with good monsoon showers and tropical climate with hot and dry summers, dry to humid weather in the rainy season, abundant sunshine and average annual temperature of about 30 °C are favourable for the growth, development and yield of chilli.
Seeds of chillies are sown in the month of July and transplanted to the specially prepared fields that have organic manure sometime during the second week of August. The flowering happens within 45 to 50 days after transplantation and green chillies start to take shape after 60 days of cultivation.
The fruits mature and become red in colour and are retained on the plant till it turns red. The farmers harvest these red chillies before they get fully dried up. They are sundried to remove any moisture content. Chilli powder is then prepared from the dried red chillies.
The yield is quite low as compared to the hybrid varieties that flood the market but this chilli extracts a premium price for its quality, taste, medicinal properties and vibrant red colour. The capsaicin content in this chilli is much higher than other indigenous varieties like the Byadgi Chilli and Guntur Chilli.
The red colour of this chilli is one of its most valuable attributes and is used in food preparations and in the cosmetic industries (red lipstick, nail polish and creams) as it contains a higher percentage of oleoresin as compared to other chilli crops. The redness of this chilli gives a pungent taste to the food without any side effects like acidity.
This chilli is around 1 to 1.5 inches in length and thicker than both indigenous and hybrid varieties. Its thickness helps it to be stored for a longer duration with minimal breakage. The chilli powder does not attract insects and pests and can be stored up to a year.
Bhiwapur chilli is an excellent source of Vitamin A, B, B6 and C, potassium, magnesium and molybdenum. It is known to reduce arthritis pain, headaches, reduce inflammation of the lungs caused by cigarette smoking and stimulate the digestive system among others.
Many local delicacies like the much loved Varhadi Lal Mirch Thecha (spicy red chilli chutney) are prepared using this famed chilli that has immense curative properties. This native chilli received the Geographical Indication Tag (GI) in 2016.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
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