What is New Mexico Chile?
New Mexico chile refers to the various types of chile peppers grown in New Mexico, primarily around the Rio Grande valley, with the Hatch Valley being the largest individual growing region. Although many farmers also grow varieties of chile such as jalapenos, typically we refer to Numex varieties as New Mexico chile. Numex varieties are developed at the Chile Pepper Institute, a part of New Mexico State University in Las Cruces. In addition to developing new varieties of chile peppers alongside local farmers, they also host a teaching garden, where you can go to learn about how to grow chile. In case you are buying green chile for the first time in a store, check out this guide to choosing good chile!
Is it Hatch chile or New Mexico chile?
The answer to this question primarily depends on who you ask. Hatch is known as the chile capital of the world for a reason. Although it is a small town of only about 1,000 people, it is almost entirely dedicated to chile production and sales. The town really comes alive during the chile season, then slips into a quiet slumber once the harvest season is done. Hatch chile is certainly more easy to say than New Mexico chile, but there are many great chile growing regions around New Mexico. For this region, we primarily use the term New Mexico chile, as Hatch chile is quite specific, and not always the best chile available in New Mexico, depending on what stage of the chile season it is.
How to use New Mexico chile?
In New Mexico, we use our chile for almost every meal, from breakfast to a midnight snack. People buy different heat levels of chile based on their spice preference, then roast them and stick them in freezer bags to use throughout the rest of the year. Another popular way of storing roasted chile is to dry it, whether by the sun or using a dehydrator. Chile pasado is what this type of chile is called, and it is a great addition to green chile sauces and stews. Many people like making green chile sauce, but simply chopping roasted chile and using it as a topping works great too! With dried red chile pods, it is typically destemmed and deseeded, then boiled and blended. This red sauce is a favorite for making enchiladas.
What makes New Mexican chile special?
The growing regions are wonderfully suited to grow chile peppers, but what makes our chiles in New Mexico so unique is the flavor and size. They have a nice herbal earthy flavor, that really comes together when roasted. Chile varieties in New Mexico are also typically bigger than anywhere else in the world, with Big Jim, a medium heat variety, holding the record for largest chili pepper in the world. Because of the size and lack of insane heat, it is perfect for chile focused dishes, such as chile rellenos. In the world, many cuisines enjoy their spice, but nowhere uses chile as much as New Mexico. The question, “red or green?” is our state question for a reason, as it will be asked at nearly every New Mexican restaurant every day. Although I don’t have data, I imaging the average New Mexican eats chile with 2 meals a day, and eating green or red New Mexico chile with every single meal is not unusual at all.