You have heard of Bhoot Jholakia (ghost pepper) or the Geographical Indicator (GI)-tagged King Chilli. Both are grown in the North Eastern region of India where numerous tribes are linguistically different to each other but morphologically similar in physical attributes and call themselves the seven sisters.
But have you heard of Dalle Khorsani? Grown in Sikkim and it's demographically similar counterpart hills of Kalimpong and Darjeeling in the state of West Bengal and also in the hilly tracts of Nepal, it literally means 'round' in the local language Nepali, which is widely spoken in Sikkim, Kalimpong and Darjeeling districts of Gorkhaland Territorial Administration Territory of West Bengal. In Nepal though it is known as Akbaray Khorsani.
Dalle Khorsani forms a part of the staple diet of the people of the region. On the Scoville Heat Units (a measurement of spiciness or heat of chillies), it has a range between 1,00,000 to 3,50,000. This range is similar to its Mexican counterpart, the Habanero chillies. The king chilly on the other hand has Scoville rating of 330,000-1,000,000 SHU. Dalle khurshani is packed with nutrients and vitamins A, E and C, along with potassium and variety of anti-oxidants. About 100gm of dalle khorsani has five times more Vitamin C than an orange.4
Part Of Folklore
In many cultures, food is interwoven into folklores. Similarly, there are many folklores associated with dalle. In folk remedies, it is recommended as an assest of both the rich and the poor, a medical ointment for cleaning wounds and gangrene and also the open sores.
Surprisingly, it has been shown that daily consumption of dalle does not aggravate or cause stomach ulcers but in fact, they have a preventative effect, as stomach ulcers are mostly caused by bacteria and the antibacterial action of dalle khorsani kills such bacteria.
Recently, it earned the geographical indication (GI) tag from the Union department of industry promotion and internal trade.earned. However, the initial certification was limited to Sikkim. As Sikkim, Darjeeling and Kalimpong share a similar geography, culture and traditions and the dalle khursani is grown in all the three regions, individuals from various walks of life came together to form the Darjeeling Free Society last year to get the tag extended to the two hill districts of West Bengal as well. It was an ardorous task to say the least. The team carried out a research into the genetic line of the Dalle.
The findings of the research were published into a book titled The Dalle Khorsani Encyclopedia( Everything you need to know about Dalle of the Darjeeling and Kalimpong Hills) penned by Swastika Gurung and Mahadev Chettri. The Geographical Indications on September 14, 2021 included Sikkim, Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts of GTA as the final certified regions of Dalle Khorsani.
No Piece Of Cake
For the research, the survey team led by Mahadev Chettri, a senior scientific research officer, had to traverse difficult terrains for databse collection of Dalle along with other agro- based products. " We proved among the two varieties in existence of the dalle (earth facing and skyfacing) sky facing is more primitive to the Himalayan belt of Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts than the earth facing dalle but the commercial importance is lesser due to its size," said Swastika Gurung, Managing Director, Darjeeling Free Society, who is also a research scholar in biotechnology. "Earthfacing dalle is bigger in size and rounder and when bottled appears plumper and is a little less spicy than skyfacing which is why they are commercially viable," she added.
"Unlike our morphological similarities with the NE sisters, we found that the two varieties have more affinity and query cover resemblance of 97 per cent-100 per cent with the two hot chillies of NE; King Chilli and Bhoot Jholakia, wherein the sky facing variety are more primitive to the concerned GI area. The genetic sequence is available in NCBI gene bank, under the Accession No.s MW290145 & MW290146. This shall help develop further improvement in the crop varieties and producing disease resistant seeds in future run," said Swastika.
How Will The Tag Benefit Farmers?
Indraman Gurung(60), a dalle farmer from Peshok Tea Estate said that the GI tag has given an identity to the farmers like him. Gurung used to work as tea garden worker but it shut down. Not the one to sit and complain, Gurung began growing dalle and tomato on the land of the tea estate. The bet paid off well as it brought in more money than the daily wage he was being paid at the tea garden. "We will now be known as dalle farmers and that gives us immense pride," added Indraman.
"Like with Darjeeling tea, dalle khurshani will now become synonymous with Darjeeling. Farmers from other states and districts cannot sell their produce as dalle and will therefore grant them protection. It will be intrinsically linked with our identity. The tag will open up more markets for the farmers," said Vikram Rai, an assistant professor at St Joseph's College, Darjeeling and a member of the Darjeeling Free Society.
The team that worked to the GI tag extended to Darjeeling and Kalimpong include
- Swastika Gurung ( MD , Darjeeling Free Society & PhD Research Scholar)
- Mahadev Chettri ( Scientific Research Officer, Horticulture Department GTA, Dungra Busty, Kalimpong)
- Dr MP Lama ( Senior Professor, JNU, Delhi)
- Dr Eklabya Sharma( VC, TERAI University, Delhi)
- Dr Umesh Thapa ( Senior Professor, Kalyani University, Kolkata)
- Dr Vimal Khawas ( Associate Professor, SU, Gangtok)
- Dr. Sudarshan Raj Tamang ( Asst. Prof, SU, Gangtok)
- RP Gurung ( Director, North Eastern Regional Agriculture Marketing Corporation Ltd, Sikkim)
- Amir Lohar ( Judicial Magistrate, Mushuridabad)
- Amrit Cintury( Advocate, Supreme Court, Delhi)
- Bobita Lama ( Advocate, Kurseong Court)
- Vikram Rai ( Asstistant Professor, St. Joseph College, Darjeeling)
- Swaraj Thapa ( Social Activist, Darjeeling)