NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – We still have a few months before we see and smell the fresh chile roasting in New Mexico, but it is already chile season for one man in Hawaii.
Rick Werner grew up in New Mexico and now lives in Maui. He used to get New Mexico chile sent to him, but it is expensive. Instead, he got the seeds of his favorite New Mexico varieties of chile so that he could grow them in his own backyard in Maui.
“Problem is I got my Big Jims, which are mild ones, mixed in with my Sandias, which are hotter ones. I got my seeds and my plants all mixed up, so I have a blend,” Werner said. “Some are hot and some are not so hot, but the flavor was perfect.”
He posted on Facebook about his success with growing New Mexico-types of chile in Hawaii. Werner said he has lived in Maui for the last 30 years, but he originally grew up in Espanola. He said that is where he actually started growing chile when he was 14 years old.
Last October, during a visit to New Mexico, Werner said he stopped by New Mexico State University’s Chile Pepper Institute to get some seeds and see if the peppers would grow okay in Hawaii. He said the chile is not quite as hot, but it grows year-round and tastes great. Now, even in Maui, he can enjoy his favorite New Mexican dish of green chile chicken enchiladas.
Chile peppers grow very well in tropical climates, according to experts at NMSU.
“Because they have a more humid environment, they may have more foliar diseases that we don’t have here, but they have the heat,” said NMSU Extension Vegetable Specialist Stephanie Walker. “What chile peppers really thrive on is a long, warm growing season.”
Walker added that growing chiles in a stressed environment will make them hotter and bring out more flavor. The Chile Pepper Institute sells seeds online. Proceeds help fund student research and employment.
NMSU gets interest in New Mexico chile from all around the world. Walker said, this past year, she took seeds to colleagues in Micronesia, a country made up of hundreds of tropical islands in the Pacific. Despite the global interest, the online seed shop is not set up for international sales.