California has great wine, but New Mexico folks say they have the best peppers in the world. And it’s time to celebrate that; the growers around Hatch New Mexico are holding their annual Chile Festival.
Hatch is a village located in the Mesilla Valley, north of Las Cruces. They grow wine in the valley too, as well as lettuce, cotton and a variety of truck crops. The world’s largest pecan orchard is down near the town of Mesilla. And Las Cruces is the original home of Cowboy poet Baxter Black. But it’s most famous for growing the best-tasting chiles in the world.
And its chile, with an e, not chili with an i, by congressional decree. In 1983, New Mexico Senator Pete Domenici told the world they had been spelling it wrong, and henceforth, knowledgeable chile experts would spell it with an e.
Chile peppers have gained in popularity because, like wines, they add flavor complexity to cuisine. That complexity has been studied at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces. Chile is so important there that they created the Chile Institute, and they’ve identified and developed 5 different varieties of Hatch chiles. Their work has provided chiles that keep that Hatch chile flavor but with a variety of heat levels.
Here are some other things the Chile Institute wants us to know about chile:
• One fresh medium-sized green chile pod has as much Vitamin C as six oranges.
• One teaspoon of dried red chile powder has the daily requirements of Vitamin A.
• Hot chile peppers burn calories by speeding up the metabolism.
• Teas & lozenges are made with chile peppers for the treatment of a sore throat.
• Capsaicinoids, the chemical that makes chile peppers hot, are used in muscle patches for sore and aching muscles.
• Chile peppers are relatives of tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplants, all belonging to the nightshade family.
Well, I’m not able to get to southern New Mexico this Labor Day weekend, but if I could I’d sure be at the festival. But I hope to get my shipment of Hatch chile peppers in time to make a great meal, and eat it in honor of the hardworking farmers of the Mesilla Valley. Thanks for growing these great chiles.