Decoding Mathania Lal Mirch: The Lal Badshah of Rajasthan
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Indian cuisine is famous around the world for its tantalising flavours and the generous use of spices. When it comes to spices, India has been pretty self-dependent as different types of spices are grown in multiple topographies of India. One such spice that is rampantly used in different cuisines around India is red chilli. Red chilli is used to give a spicy fiery taste to vegetarians as well as non-vegetarian dishes across different positions in the country. 

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People will be surprised to know that chilli is not native to India. Chillies were originally cultivated in Mexico for the very first time. Some people believe that it was Vasco da Gama who was responsible for bringing chillies to the Indian subcontinent. There is also a huge sect of people who believe that chillies came to India from South America during the spice trade. Whatever the source of introduction was, chillies became an instant hit in India because of their unique taste and enriching flavour. Chilies were frequently grown in different parts of the country which led to the cultivation of a lot of regional varieties. One such famous regional variety of red chilli pepper from Rajasthan is called Mathania Lal Mirch. Mathania chilli pepper is exclusively grown in Rajasthan as the hot and humid temperature of that area supports its natural cultivation.

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The most famous variety of Mathania lal mirch is grown in the Jodhpur city of Rajasthan. 35 km away from Jodhpur is an area that is specifically dedicated to the production of one of the most dense and authentic varieties of Mathania lal mirch. The flavour of this chilli pepper is described as slightly sweet and has a lower level of heat. It has an extremely pungent taste as well as a flavour. Compared to the other famous varieties of red chilli peppers in India, Mathania mirch is not that fiery or hot. There are a lot of families in Rajasthan who have been in the business of growing these traditional red chilli peppers for at least 7 to 8 generations. 

This means that people have been dedicated to the profession since the late 18th century or the early 19th century at least. People in Rajasthan grow this regal variety of chilli peppers during the month of winter. The first fruits generally start flourishing in December and the cultivation continues till late February. Depending upon the temperature and the soil, the taste of Mathania mirch may vary from batch to batch. As per the local farmers in Rajasthan, the winter variety of this red chilli pepper is the best. These red chillies are very sensitive to temperature as well as the use of pesticides and insecticides. This is the reason why the cultivation of mathania lal mirch requires perpetual attention and care.

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People in Rajasthan like to use this red chilli pepper in almost all their dishes. It is either used as a whole or in a paste form to add to dishes like Laal Maas and Kheer Sangri. Some people also like to make a red chilli powder from Mathania lal mirch by first sun-drying them, and then making a coarse powder from the chillies. The subtle spiciness of this red chilli is used as a medicine in Rajasthan to alleviate common problems like colds, coughs and indigestion. Another famous delicacy that is made from mathania mirch is the special mathania chilli garlic chutney. Here is the recipe for the chutney for those who would want to try making it at home.

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* 2 dried Mathania chillies

* 5 cloves of garlic

* Salt to taste

* Enough water to make a thick paste

To make this chutney one has to simply put all the ingredients on a sil-batta and very carefully grind everything together. Generally, the chutney is left a little coarse and not ground completely. 

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* Problems With Cultivation 

Currently, the farmers producing the Mathania are suffering from the problem of a market crunch. Post-pandemic, the market size for these red chilli peppers is not as wide as it used to be. As a result, many farmers have given up on the cultivation of these red chillies and sold their businesses as well as lands. Due to the lower availability of these red chilli peppers, their prices have increased. This is making Mathania mirch less competitive in the market as these chillies are more expensive than the regular varieties of chillies that are available for people in the market.