Few chillies in the world have a spiciness above a million Scoville units, among these there is the Naga Morich (literally: snake bite).
It is a pepper derived from the Bhut Jolokia variety, originally from India and Bangladesh. The fruit that is not very fleshy but particularly aromatic, as well as spicy, is certainly something that chilli lovers must try.
Let’s find out more about this variety, deepening its characteristics and also the method for growing Naga Morich peppers in Italy.
Characteristics of the plant
The Indian Naga Morich chilli is a cultivar of the capsicum chinense species, a family that includes the hottest varieties in the world, such as the Carolina reaper and the habanero.
This pepper forms a sufficiently robust shrub not to require a support brace, it generally reaches a height between 60 and 80 cm. If well cultivated, it can reach up to one meter in height. The foliar apparatus is very large, with abundant and bright green leaves. It takes 90 days for the fruit to ripen.
The shape that the plant takes is reminiscent of an umbrella, facilitating the protection, in the phases of enlargement, of the young fruits. The naga morich is a pepper that is well suited to the climates of central-southern Italy, as it requires constantly high temperatures and climates that are not too humid. However, following some simple precautions, the plant can also grow cultivated in northern Italy.
Naga Morich: the fruit
The fruits of the Naga Morich are conical in shape, 7 to 10 centimeters long, 2/3 centimeters wide. They vaguely resemble the shape of the pear, with a larger diameter at the top.
Unlike other fruits of the same family, it has less pulp: the consistency is drier, and the walls less thick and fleshy.
Scoville degree of spiciness
The spiciness of a pepper depends on the capsaicin content in the fruit and is measured according to the Scoville scale, with a score in SHU (Scoville Heat Units). The naga morich in 2010 won the award as the hottest pepper in the world, scoring approximately 1,100,000 scoville. In recent years it has been overtaken by its older brothers, the Trinitad Scorpion (in 2011) and the Carolina Reaper (in 2013). Even if ousted from the first position, it remains an extremely spicy fruit, to be handled with care.
The Naga Morich, has a level of spiciness so high that the burning sensation felt in eating it “raw” could resemble the bite of a reptile. Hence its name, which literally means “snake bite“.
Organoleptic characteristics and culinary use
Despite being one of the hottest peppers in the world, eating a “raw” Naga Morich is not a wicked decision. At first glance, it might seem sweet and sour at the same time, almost slightly smoky. On the palate, the extreme spiciness is revealed very slowly, with a bouquet of aromas tending to tropical fruits.
Today this pepper is also grown a lot in the United Kingdom and in the United States, it goes very well with meat and pasta dishes, but it can be used for the preparation of sauces or powders, to flavor and spice our dishes.
Contrary to what one might think when feeling burning in the mouth, eating hot peppers is not bad, these fruits have an incredible series of positive effects on our body. The Naga Morich, in particular, can boast beneficial properties:
- A powerful antioxidant function in our body, reducing the risk of cancer, helping to keep the circulatory system, bones and skin healthy;
- Helps the digestive system and the heart in their functions;
- It brings relief against migraines and joint pains, since capsaicin is a natural pain reliever;
- It has a notable contribution in vitamin C and beta-carotene.
Cultivating the Naga Morich
When you want to grow a capiscuum chinense plant, you must always keep in mind that these are varieties that are not born for our climate, the naga morich is no exception. The rather long crop cycle, the timing of fruit ripening and the poor resistance to cold should not be ignored, especially for those who want to grow naga morichs in northern Italy.
However, growing one of the hottest peppers in the world in our garden, or even in pots on the balcony, is possible. Generally, it is better to help yourself with heated seedbeds, or with the help of “grow boxes”, or domestic greenhouses for indoor cultivation of plants, equipped with holes for extraction and introduction of air.
The heated environment is not essential for the entire crop cycle, but it is important to anticipate sowing, in order to then have the whole summer to allow the fruits to ripen.
The sowing of the naga morich
For those who do not have time or availability, naga morich seedlings ready to be transplanted are sold in well-supplied consortia, eliminating all the sowing and germination work. However, starting with the seeds has an undoubted charm and also allows you to reuse seeds obtained by us from the previous year.
Sowing should start from February or early March, checking the night temperatures: they must never drop below 14/16 degrees, under penalty of vegetative block or even the death of the young seedling. For this reason, sowing in a seedbed is worthwhile, allowing the early sowing of a few weeks, or even a few months, if we are talking about northern Italy.
The germination phase requires a temperature of 22/24 degrees. Normally the cotyledons can be seen 15-20 days after sowing: the time may vary according to the quality of the seeds used. Don’t despair if life doesn’t seem to exist: the seed can take up to two months to germinate! The seed integument of naga morich is very tough and for this reason a bath of chamomile seeds is a good trick to help germination.
The rules for watering are always the same: wet a little and regularly, keep the soil moist, but never completely soaked or dry.
How and when to transplant Naga Morich
For transplanting, our chilli can be placed in the field starting from April or May, as long as it is protected from late frosts. The plant, like all plants of the capsicum family, terribly hates the cold. The advice is to transplant it in an extremely sunny place, which guarantees maximum light throughout the day.
Before transplanting the Naga Morich, we must evaluate the solar exposure had up to that moment: if the plant has grown in dim light, direct contact with the sun will be traumatic, and could damage the young leaves. In this sense it is good to acclimate the plant, exposing it for short periods to direct sun. The increase in exposure times will take place gradually, intervening promptly if signs of “fatigue” of the plant are noticed.
Soil and fertilization
The soil must be nourished and balanced, with the right compromise between water retention and drainage, which is achieved with good processing combined with the contribution of organic matter. In this sense, too clayey soils can be made more draining by adding sand or peat; on the contrary, more permeable soils can be enriched with mature manure or earthworm humus, to slow down the evapotranspiration of water and the washout of nutrients.
It will be enough to fertilize only once at the time of planting, avoiding excess nitrogen, which can push the plant into the foliar apparatus, penalizing fruit production.
It is important to consider that, in the cultivation of chili peppers in the garden, the distance between one plant and the other must be at least 50 cm between the rows and 40 cm on the row.
Growth and maintenance
In the early stages of life, like all plants that need to grow, a constant and balanced water supply is required. When the plant is well structured, it needs a moderate water supply.
To keep the naga morich healthy, it is sufficient to make sure that the soil is never dry on the surface but that, at the same time, it is not too full of water. In fact, chilli has a root system sensitive to asphyxiation, and requires greater attention to the water supply.
Don’t worry if some flowers will fall during growth: it is the natural selection of the plant, which with occasional drops will focus more on the remaining flowers, giving excellent fruit.
Collection of Naga Morich chillies
If you are a lover of extreme spiciness, it is advisable to water the plant a little in the week before harvesting. This allows the presence of water in the fruit to decrease, increasing the concentration of capsaicin, and therefore the spiciness. This will probably send the foliar apparatus into a slight crisis, but we won’t have to worry: by now the plant will have well-structured roots, and it will be enough to water with very little water, enough to keep the plant alive, until the time of harvest.
The chili plant grown in our climates typically does not survive for the next season. Therefore, you can keep the seeds of the naga morich pepper as already explained, and if you like this super spicy Indian variety you can re-sow the next season.
You may be interested to read about the Jalapeño pepper grow guide/ Hot peppers grow guide/ Pasta With Peppers Cruschi Recipe/ Stuffed baguette with peppers recipe/ Italian roasted peppers recipe/ Hot pepper jam recipe/ Nest milk pudding recipe.