This tip is for chile lovers: The window is briefly open for Hatch chiles, the most prized chile of New Mexico, with a meaty flesh and mild-medium heat.
The season is August through early September, but depending on weather conditions, the harvest can begin as early as July and finish in early October.
If you can’t find Hatch chiles locally, head to Melissas.com.
Authentic New Mexican Hatch chiles are named after the original growing area of Hatch, New Mexico in the Mesilla Valley, just north of Las Cruces. The valley, which stretches along the Rio Grande’s southernmost bend before crossing into Texas and Mexico, is covered with row after row of green, leafy Hatch chile plants for most of the summer.
Every September, after the harvest, there are formal and informal Hatch chile festivals. In towns throughout New Mexico, the aroma of roasted chiles fills the air, along with the sounds of the Hatch chiles popping and crackling as they roast in propane-powered roasters. They’re roasted in grocery store parking lots, on street corners and seemingly everywhere and just about everyone enjoys the seasonal treat.
Chefs say that the intense sunlight, hot days and cool nights in the valley result in a uniquely flavored chile. Favorite recipes include chile con queso, chiles rellenos, and chile verde.
Hatch chiles from New Mexico. Photo courtesy Melissas.com.
But it doesn’t stop there: The roasted chiles are used in salads, soups, stews, dips and sandwiches. Roasting instructions are below, and recipes are available at Melissas.com. Click on the recipe tab towards the bottom of the page to see dozens of yummy Hatch chile recipes. (Consider the Hatch chile chocolate chip cookies.)
Check out the different types of chiles.
All chiles can be roasted over an open flame—on a grill or a gas stove—or under the broiler.
1. To roast chiles over an open flame on the grill or stovetop, hold the pepper with tongs over a medium flame, turning occasionally until evenly charred. To roast chiles under a broiler, arrange chiles in a single layer in a baking pan or sheet and place under a hot broiler. Turn occasionally to char evenly.
2. When the skin is blackened and blistered, place chiles in a paper or plastic bag, or in a pan with a tight fitting cover. Seal or cover and allow to cool. The chiles will deflate and shrivel, but their skin will easily lift off, revealing a silky flesh underneath.
3. Remove seeds and stems (if not using the stems for chiles rellenos) and use as directed in your recipe.
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CHILES & PEPPERS OR CHILE PEPPERS?
The original name, chile, comes from the Aztec language of the New World (chilli). When Columbus’ crew first tasted chiles, in the Caribbean, the heat and pungency reminded them of black pepper. They referred to the chiles as peppers or chile peppers.
Pepper is a completely unrelated species; the fruits (yes chiles are fruits) should be called chiles (the Spanish transcription) or chiles. But after 500 years, it’s tough to change the record.
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