The Kashmiri chilli is famed by cook’s for its rich spicy flavour and the deep red colour it imparts in cooking. I have been trying to grow this variety of chilli for 3 years now. So far all attempts to find and grow a true Kashmiri chilli have failed but I think I may be getting closer. Here’s a summary of what I’ve tried so far.
Kashmiri try 2009
Still unable to find a seed source, I bought dried Kashmiri chillis from Sambava Spices, they look and taste right but the big question is whether they will grow true from the seed.
I also swapped some of my Kashmiri 2009 seeds with Christina in the USA who had also bought some kashmiri chillis to get seeds. Hers came from Herbies Spices and she had grown them the previous year. Christina says of them, moderately hot with a beautiful fruity aroma and rich flavour and colour … sounds promising!!!.
So I grew from both Christina’s and my shop bought seeds. 2 plants of each var in the polytunnel and 2 plants of each var outdoors . All 8 plants grew very well with stacks of chillis (particularly those undercover). But before the chillis got a chance to fully ripen DISASTER. Wild pigs got into the potager and polytunnel in mid summer and trashed it; turfing out all the chilli plants as they dug through the soil. Plants and labels were scattered and in the high heat of summer most of the plants were past the point of being able to recover even though I tried re-planting as many as possible. In the end I did get some fully ripe chillies from 2 remaining plants which both produced different looking pods neither looked like the dried peppers I had bought but both had a rich spicy flavour and deep red colour. The rub is I don’t know which plants I had left. So this year I will grow both seed types again and see what happens.
Kashmiri try 2008
In 2008 I swapped seeds with Primo in Louisiana to get some Kashmiri seeds. When I grew these Kashmiri Chillis last year they we even further off the mark. The plants grew well if a bit straggly, in the polytunnel, and had clusters of thin pale chillis. The chillis were very slow to mature in fact they never really ripened to a full red but dried themselves out on the plant. The chillis were 6-7cm long and thin about 1 cm at the widest end tapering to a fine point. These chillis were a straight forward sharp hot, at a guess about a heat level 6-8/10, not particularly fruity and very pale so no colour to be had from these chillis. Again a disappointment but nevertheless a nice hot chilli good for drying, powdering and curries.
Kashmiri try 2007
In 2007 Colin in Bristol tried to help by sending some seeds from cooking ‘Kashmiri’ chillis peppers he had. He did not know if they would grow true but I was willing to give it a go. The plants grew really well outdoors and produced a good crop of 12cm long peppers, 2-3 cm wide at the top and tapered to a sharp point with a slight curve. These chillis were a deep, dark red, and strangely dry, they almost dried themselves on the plant. The picture above is of the chillis just harvested. These chillis had the colour I was after but non of the flavour or heat. A disappointment but an interesting chilli to grow the plant was beautiful and prolific and the peppers made a lovely mild paprika powder that did give dishes the lovely red colour I was after.
There is not that much information on the internet about the Kashmiri chilli for growers but here’s a couple of sources and what they say:
According to the Chileman “Originally a variety grown in Kashmir India, it is now a generic term for any medium long dried red chile. ‘Deghi Mirch’ is also a mild flavored red chili powder used extensively in Indian Cuisine for its colouring properties. It is more sweet than hot. ‘Guajillo’ is an appropriate substitute.”
According to Chile-Head “The true Kashmir chile is native to the northern-most state of India and is much in demand for its bright crimson colouring, a quality it imparts to cooking. So much is the Kashmir chile (Kashmir Mirch) in demand that there is not enough total annual crop, to go round, and pretenders or mock-Kashmir chiles are passed off in its place. The true Kashmiri chile is deep crimson with a smooth, shiny, thin skin when dried. It is about 5 cm long by 2.5 cm wide and has a fruity flavour. Heat level is 4.”
So why am I so mad keen to grow this particular chilli?
The simple answer is I want to grow all my cooking ingredients. The Kashmiri is a medium heat chilli from the mountains of Kashmir in India and it is an essential ingredient in lots of Indian recipes. I don’t really mind if what I get is not a true Kashmiri chilli so long as it has the two signature characteristics I am after; rich spicy flavour and that deep red colour.
If anyone else has seeds of the Kashmiri or knows of a source or has seeds for chillis with these characteristics then I’d love to hear from you. It is not that I am obsessive you understand :-) its just that I REALLY WANT TO GROW THESE CHILLIS.
Updated from original post 25/2/2009
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