The history of the green chile; it’s all about the New Mexico soil

Hispanic Heritage Month

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(KRQE) – It’s the staple ingredient of New Mexican cuisine, the chile pepper. Red or green, fresh or roasted, shipments of New Mexico’s chile go all over the world.

From late summer to early fall, many scramble to get their hands on green chile to be roasted and pack their freezers to last until next year.

So, what makes this fruit so special?

“Chile peppers or just, chile, is very addicting,” said Miranda Cisneros, Chile Pepper Coordinator at New Mexico State University. “Once you get started, it’s hard to stop.”

While it may not be scientifically proven, even the smell of chile roasting can have a pretty profound effect. So far, New Mexicans have found a way to include it in virtually every meal.

“The way you compare wine with cheeses is kind of the way you compare red or green chile with different meats,” said Cisneros. “I guess you could say, so you could do red chile with meat, it’s usually prepared with pork meat. With green chile, you could prepare that with chicken or even on a burger.”

While Hatch may be the biggest grower and distributor in the state, it’s by far not the only spot for chile. The fruit is grown statewide.

Heritage seeds that have been grown and passed down for generations can be found in spots like Velarde, Chimayo and Lemitar. Typically, the produce from those locations can create a different chile pod and flavor altogether.
That’s compared to some of the big crops coming out of Hatch.

“The way I kind of try to break it down, is all green chile is going to have a lot of similar flavor,” added Cisneros. “Really, the only difference is going to be heat. I’ll start off with the original strains that we’ve actually done improved varieties of which include the New Mexico 6-4, the Big Jim, and the Sandia in which we have done improved varieties of each of those, calling each of those either a heritage, like a Heritage 6-4, a Heritage Big Jim or a Sandia.”

Chile pepper experts say the reason for having such a successful yield is all thanks to the New Mexico soil.

“Climate wise has a lot to do with how your chile peppers grow, the soil conditions, the water that’s allocated, the amount of sunlight,” said Cisneros. “Chile peppers like sun. Generally anything below 56 degrees and chile peppers will freeze and die off.”

According to a report from NMSU, in 2012, chile made up nearly 8 percent of the total agricultural commodities produced in New Mexico.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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