If there’s one thing New Mexicans can agree on, it’s the importance of chile. We’re addicted to the stuff and totally unrepentant about it. We even study it in academic institutions – New Mexico State University has a Chile Pepper Institute! It’s fair to say that chile peppers are a key part of both our economy and our cultural identity as New Mexicans. So, here are 15 things we all know to be true about chile.
1. It's spelled chile. In New Mexico, we use the Spanish adaption of the Aztec word “chil.”
Chili refers to chili con carne.
2. Chiles are a fruit.
Just like tomatoes (also commonly misidentified as veggies), chiles have seeds so that makes them a fruit.
3. Chiles are packed with vitamin C.
A half cup of chopped chiles provides 107.8 mg of vitamin C. To put that in perspective, a navel orange contains only 82.7 mg.
4. Chile has curative properties (see previous point).
Chicken soup is for wimps. If we’re sick we need green chile stew.
5. Many many different chile plants grow in here. But most of us have heard of Hatch chiles and Chimayo chiles.
6. There is a 5th season of the year: Chile Season.
In New Mexico, during August and September, parking lots fill with chile roasters (large spinning barrels).
7. We know it’s worth lining up for chile.
Even if the line’s longer than the one at the DMV, at least we’re guaranteed to be happy when we reach the front!
8. Chile should be purchased in bulk.
If you don’t have to clench your abdominal muscles when you hoist your stash into the car, then you could have bought more!
9. Chile is so important here that there is legislation protecting it.
In 2011, New Mexico passed a law that makes it illegal to assert that chile – either fresh or used in products like salsa – is New Mexico chile unless it was grown in the Land of Enchantment. Apparently, some were using our state’s reputation for excellent chile to market sub-par products that were actually grown out-of-state. If any vendor, from roadside stands to high-end restaurants, claims to use or sell New Mexico chile, it has to be the real deal.
10. Servings of the same kind of chile pepper can vary in terms of heat.
This is because variables like temperature and water affect the fieriness of the final product.
11. We have an official state question and, of course, it relates to chile peppers.
So when a New Mexican says: “Red or green?” they are asking about your chile preference. Responding “Christmas” means that you want both.
12. The best kind of festival is a chile festival.
The Hatch Chile Festival is probably the most famous of these events. But there are also the South Valley Chile Festival in Albuquerque and The Santa Fe Wine and Chile Fiesta. If you’re visiting New Mexico and miss out on those festivals, don’t worry because…
13. You don’t need to attend a festival to get a taste for our chile. Chile is a mandatory ingredient in ALL recipes. Just think of it as the “New Mexican twist.”
In addition to encountering chile on New Mexican and Mexican foods, it also appears on pizza, in cornbread, in chocolate, dusted over pistachios, and on apple pie. That’s just for starters. If you find a food product without chile, it’s an oversight that we’ll probably address in time!
14. Never trust a person who doesn't like chile.
15. Forget the latest tips from HGTV. Decorating with chiles is always in fashion.
These are called ristras and they’re EVERYWHERE in New Mexico.