I visited Albuquerque last week and although I wasn't in town at the right time for farmers' markets or the annual chile harvest, I did get to experience some of the local cuisine. Just about every other meal I was served contained the famous New Mexico green chiles. These deliciously hot peppers made their way into everything from omelettes to biscuits to enchiladas.
New Mexico green chiles are similar to Anaheim peppers, but they are a bit more pungent. The term actually encompasses several different cultivars that have been bred since the 1800s, including Long Green, Big Jim, and Española. (Anaheims are a cultivar that was developed when New Mexico chile seeds were brought to California in 1896.) Many people consider the ones grown in the town of Hatch to be the tastiest.
Harvested in late summer, the peppers are usually roasted and then dried, canned, or frozen to be enjoyed throughout the year. When green chiles are left to mature on the vine, they turn into red chiles, which are harvested in the fall.
I was so inspired by all the green chile-containing dishes I ate in Albuquerque that I had to bring some of the peppers home with me. Embarrassingly, I completely forgot about airline regulations and had a jar of chiles confiscated from my carry-on luggage! Fortunately, I was allowed to keep my packet of dried green peppers. Now I've been looking at mail order sources such as Hatch Chile Express and the seed catalog of New Mexico State University.
Emily Ho is a writer, recipe developer, and educator. She lives in Los Angeles, where she teaches classes on food preservation, wild food, and herbalism. Emily is a Master Food Preserver and founder of LA Food Swap and the international Food Swap Network.
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