Green Chile: A Taste Of New Mexico
Here in New Mexico, everyone’s mouths start to water right around the beginning of August. Why? Because the green chile is being harvested and roasted! There’s nothing like the spicy steam coming off of the green chile that’s being roasted outside of almost every grocery store in the state for the next month. It’s mesmerizing to watch the huge grated barrels being turned over the fire and sprayed down with water to create the giant steam clouds that we all look forward to, so it’s common to see a small crowd gathered around a chile roaster outside of the local grocery.
Roasting the chiles doesn’t just give them that amazing, smokey flavor; it also blisters the skin of the fruit to make them easier to peel and prepare into the favorite and classic dishes of New Mexico.
The standard question at any New Mexican eatery is, “Red or green?” in reference to chile preference. The truth is, they are the same- just harvested at different times. Green chiles are harvested earlier, while the red chiles are red because they were left on the plant to further ripen. Red chiles are typically a little spicier than green, though a lot of that has to do with the variety of chile itself.
Each variety of chile has a heat level (Scoville unit) range. As an example, the variety named “NuMex Big Jim’s” are typically a medium heat (2500 – 3500 Scovilles) while “Sandia” or “Diablo” varieties can be hot to extra hot (5000 – 7000 Scovilles). When buying New Mexico chile, you are usually just offered mild, medium, hot, or extra hot- not necessarily a specific variety of chile. Like most produce, the seed, dirt, water, altitude, and climate of the area in which the chiles are grown can all affect the flavor of the fruit.
While Hatch Green Chile is the most well-known, the name does not refer to the variety of the chile, but rather that the chile was grown in Hatch, NM. The Hatch Green Chile Festival is being held on the 2nd and 3rd of September this year at the Hatch Municipal Airport, and it’s sure to be a flavorful event!