ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Chile roasting season is off to an early start for at least one Albuquerque grocery store, while roasters across the metro are getting ready for a new way of operating during the pandemic. The Fruit Basket has been roasting chile in its parking lot off 4th Street and Osuna since Friday.

“[Chile is] part of the state, it’s part of the culture and that’s why people love it,” Fruit Basket General Manager John Gonzales said. “The chile was ready a little early this year.”

Customers will notice the markers for social distancing and mask requirements. Gonzales added that so far, the pandemic hasn’t hurt their farm’s chile production in Hatch.

“As far as the workers, we might get hurt a little by that with the chile pickers and all,” Gonzales explained. “But, as far as we can tell, it seems like a normal year.”

The Fruit Basket said it had one of its most successful first weekends, selling 250 sacks. Meanwhile, the store Chile Traditions had its Hatch farmer grow more chile this year than ever before and will break out its four roasters in their parking lot off Montgomery and Wyoming at the beginning of August.

“We want to make sure we get our chile supply up in case we have to eat at home all year long,” Chile Traditions Owner Ken Dewees stated. “Chile roasters are about 600 degrees when they roast the chile, so that’s pretty much going to kill anything that’s on the chile. It’s getting it from the bag there to your house and getting it put away is what we [have to] watch.”

People will have the option to place their order from their car for even less contact. “We have numbers they can put on top of their car so we can carry it out or roll it out to their car in a cart,” he said.

He said curbside pick-up might not be an option because there’s a health department rule that businesses can’t roast chile until customers are on site. The coming green chile season is bringing excitement for customers and a bit of New Mexico normalcy during the pandemic.

“Everyone’s struggling,” customer Kathryn Frithingham said. “People deal with things in their own ways but nice to have something to look forward to.”

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