Visit to a Village Growing Bird's Eye ChilliBird’s Eye chillies are common chillies of India. They are hot, but decent enough to be used regularly in Indian meals. They are grown organically widely in Meghalaya and provide great taste to your meals.
It was mid October 2015 when Zizira explorers made a trip to Dulongnar, a small village in the Ri-Bhoi district, which is famous for Bird’s Eye chillies. The team met with farmers growing Bird’s Eye chilli, spent time to understand all about their cultivation and bought high quality, organically grown ones for the Zizira store.
Come With Me on the TripFrom Shillong it took the explorers close to two hours to reach this cute village with just 60 households and they spent nearly 4 hours visiting the fields and learning from the farmers about what goes into growing Bird’s Eye chilli. The farmers were generous with their time and were happy to share their experiences, for which the team was so grateful. We bring you the story of the Bird’s Eye chilli farmers that the Zizira explorers met.
Grab a copy of the unique spices of Northeast India
Born Into a Farming Family, Continues to FarmThe explorers met with farmer Commanding Kharshandi. For Comman, as he is called, farming is his livelihood and it is what helps him take care of his family comprising of wife and three children. He has been working on the fields from a very young age and loves what he does.
Bird's Eye Chilli Is the Main Crop He GrowsBird’s Eye Chilli is the main crop Comman grows and it has helped him sustain his family for a number of years now. He also grows Pumpkin, Cinnamon and different types of Bananas in the same field. These help retain the moisture in the soil and earns him some extra money too. "Chillis grow best in a field where bamboo are planted and the soil of the field is black in color," said farmer Comman.
How and When Are They Grown?
"We grow them along the hilly slopes and follow traditional practice of shifting cultivation. I buy the chilli saplings from a farmer who has a field near mine", said Comman.He went on to add:
"We first clear a plot of land by cutting the foliage, let the cut foliage dry and then burn them to the ground. This makes the soil fertile. We see that doing this helps the chilli seeds to germinate better".
- In March the field is made ready, by clearing and burning the foliage.
- In April the field is ploughed and the seeds planted.
- By June the saplings are be ready to be transplanted. September is the month that the Bird’s Eye chilli is ready for harvesting!
- All of six months, that is all. Extra hands are hired only during the planting and harvesting months.
The Challenges?The need to find a new parcel of land every 3 years, as the nutrients get depleted. That is a big challenge. This increases Comman’s work and doubles his expenses in cleaning and clearing the new piece of land.
Where Does He Sell?He sells both ripe (red in color) and raw (green in color) Bird’s Eye chillies. Mostly he sells them to the local traders. At times he finds buyers in the weekly local market too. The price he gets depends on the market conditions.
How Much Is Produced?Comman harvests up to 60 Kgs per year. There are around 60 households in Dulongnar village and each can produce around 45 to 55 Kgs of Bird’s Eye chilli annually. Collectively this comes to around 2,700 to 3,300 Kgs in a year. Ri- Bhoi district is the main area where this variety of chilli is grown. Asked whether he gets any subsidies or other support from Government agencies, Comman said no, he does not.
Farmers Follow Organic Methods of Cultivation, by DefaultMost of the people in village Dulongnar, Ri Bhoi district, depend on farming for their livelihood. All of them practice traditional methods of farming, which they have learned from their forefathers. What this means is they follow organic farming methods. This village also grows betel nuts, betel leaves and varieties of fruits like Bananas, Carambola, jackfruits, papaya, oranges, etc.
Pickling Bird's Eye Chilli Provide Value AdditionVillage Dulongnar is very close to the National Highway 40. A sight that catches the eye as you drive up to Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya, from Guwahati, the largest city in Assam, are the many shops along the highway selling fresh garden produce like bananas, pineapple, oranges and other seasonal fruits and vegetables. On sale in these road-side shops will be beautifully displayed rows of home-made pickles made with bamboo shoots, dried fish, beef, Bird’s Eye chilli etc.
Most of the farmers of Dulongnar run such shops along the highway and Bird’s Eye chilli pickle is a popular item they sell. The next time you pass, stop and buy some of these exotic pickles. Does reading about Bird’s Eye chilli make you want to try it? If you live in India you can order it online from our store. Go ahead and try it and send us your comments! If you have any questions do not hesitate to contact us.