CHILLIES OF GOA- A Genetic treasure trove
Melinda Pereira Kamat
The Portuguese came to Goa to spread Christianity and as a happy accident introduced chillies (Capsicum species) from Brazil in 1565 A.D. From Goa the chillies reached other parts of Indian sub continent. The origin of Capsicum annum and C. frutescens is South America. Chillies play a great role in the lives of Goans and their innovative culinary art. Goans did considerable experimentation with Brazilian chillies and evolved their own local varieties. During my research for an illustrated monograph on ‘Chillies of Goa”, I came across 23 local varieties- making Goa a genetic treasure trove for germplasm of Chillies in world. This is an irreplaceable crop genetic heritage. The Capsicin content of local chillies is not known. Once upon a time the village of Aldona was famous for chillies all over Goa. If timely measures are not taken then our sambare, hooman, ambat tik, gojju, sansav, tonak , khatkhate, harve, xacuti will loose its authentic fiery hot taste. Certain varieties like the Moidechi moti mirsang , Aldonechi moti kali mirsang, Aldonechi kali gaunti kashmiri mirsang which are traditionally used for pickles , rosachi kodi, bhoje, sausages, vindalho, takatli mirsang, bharilli mirsang are almost extinct. Aldonechi moti kali mirsang is paprika and has lot of demand in the European market . It has a pigment called lutein which is essential for the health of the retina. There are just 1 or 2 families in Aldona growing these chillies. Say Macaris and Franskin Alemao “problem with this variety is late ripening and it remains in the field till 15th May , cattle feed on it and 50% of it discolours , so it fetches less price”. Morjechi mirsang is thin skinned , blood red in colour and preferred for hooman. In Canacona during rainy season kholchi mirsang, lambat mirsang and motvi kamtanchi mirsang is grown while during the rabbi season porsantli mirsang is grown . The lambat mirsang has 3 strains , is transparent , thin skinned whereas the porsantli mirsang is plump , maroon in colour, medium sized and less pungent then the small sized kholchi mirsang. Chandelche barik butao, Datt salichi massoori mirsang , Mandrechi mirsang, are preferred for pickles and dry masala powder. Sataritli gaunti mirsang, dhangari pavsali mirsang, bugdi mirsang, dhangari unhali mirsang, patal salichi masoori mirsang, Harmalche butao, Cuncolechi mirsang are preferred for various types of curry preparations. Portugali mirsangs are of 7 types in Goa , with the smallest called piment malaget and is used for cafreal masala. Pandhri jalgi mirsang with pointed tip, tambdi jalgi mirsang has medicinal value, dhavi lavngi mirsang, tambdi moti portugali mirsang, lam taroti mirsang are used for making papads, dangere, vadyo and shev . Local chillies are pathogen resistant and require very less pesticides. Nursery beds called Aina or Khandla are raised between 10 th to 18th of November. Size of these beds is generally 3m length , 1m breadth and 15 cm height. Seeds are sown evenly in these beds with ash, organic manures, covered with hay, irrigated with pot everyday. After 12 days of sprouting remove hay. After seedlings [rompe] develop 10-12 leaves they are transplanted . After every 8 days weeding is done. Soil from the footpath [paivat] is removed during flowering and put near the rootzone to make a ridge called maag . Small furrow called chori which is ½ inch deep is made next to the rootzone [ ½ inch from the plant] for application of fish manure, groundnut cake, human urine. Organic farmer Govind Parsekar from Mandrem grows one row of turmeric after every 2 rows of chillies to keep the plants healthy. He uses organic manures in the beginning , then mulches the crop and maintains row to row distance of half meter. Vishram Parwar from Corjuem grows brinjal, knolkhol, marigold, field beans as an intercrop to reduce pest incidence. Chillies of the first crop which are reddish , plump , disease free and with lot of seeds inside are selected for seed purpose for the next year. It is high time that the government gives subsidies and awards to people who have taken the pain to conserve this rich genetic diversity and the Department of Agriculture takes practical steps to conserve the original varieties of Goa .