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New Mexico: Chile Hot Spot

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Repost from Bonny Wolf

ristra200Dried red chiles — strung into ristras — hang in many New Mexican homes and are used for cooking throughout the year. The state is the largest producer of chiles in the United States.

The Spanish conquistadors brought chiles to New Mexico in the 16th century, and they’ve been part of the cuisine and culture ever since. The chile is so valued that it’s been named the state vegetable (even though it’s technically a fruit). The modern New Mexican chile was developed in the late 1800s by Fabian Garcia, a horticulturalist at the New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanical Arts — today’s New Mexico State University. He wanted to breed a more standardized New Mexican chile.

In 1896, the sheriff of Ventura County, Calif., brought chile seeds back from a trip to New Mexico and planted them near Anaheim. The name stuck, and Anaheim chile is the generic name often given to the New Mexican chile.stew200-s3

However, there has been much breeding and improving over the years, so you’ll see chiles called Espanola, Sandia, Nu Mex, Big Jim, Long Green and others.

Recipes for breakfast quesadillas with New Mexican red chile sauce and green chile stew.

How to Roast Peppers

Place whole peppers over a gas or charcoal grill or under a broiler. They should be turned frequently with tongs until all sides are charred.
Put the charred peppers into a plastic bag and let sit until cool enough to handle, about 15 minutes.
Wear gloves to peel peppers, to keep seeds from eyes and skin. Peel the peppers (the skin should come right off) and remove the seeds and stems. Chop the pepper and set aside until ready to use. They may also be frozen in plastic bags with all the air squeezed out.

Hot Tips

Dairy products are the best way to combat that burning sensation. There is a substance in dairy products that counteracts the heat in the chile. So if your mouth feels like it’s on fire, drink a glass of milk.Try to keep the chile away from body parts. The oil can burn your skin and hurt your eyes. Wear gloves when handling chiles.
The chile’s heat comes from a chemical compound called capsaicinoids. They are located on the membrane of the chile. Many people think seeds are where the heat lives. Actually, they absorb it from the membrane.

Matt Romero Roasting Chili's

Chili farmer Matt Romero turns his roaster by hand at our very own Farmers’ Market.

Source: New Mexico State University Chile Pepper Institute

About the Author  Bonny Wolf is Kitchen Window‘s contributing editor and a commentator on NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday. She also hosts the Kitchen Window podcast. Her book of food essays, Talking with My Mouth Full, is out in stores. You can find more information at

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