a sack of chile pintado, mixed red and green chile roasting during peak Hatch chile season

The Hatch Chile Season

A New Mexico Tradition

Every year, as summer wanes and the days begin to shorten, a vibrant energy pulses through New Mexico. The culprit? The Hatch chile season, a cherished time when the state comes alive with the smoky aroma of roasting chiles. From bustling farmers markets to roadside stands overflowing with vibrant red and green pods, the Hatch chile reigns supreme, its fiery spirit and unique flavor captivating locals and visitors alike. It’s something it seems like everyone in New Mexico gets excited for, and for good reason. Stocking up on your sack of chile or the year is something akin to a religious pilgrimage for us New Mexicans!

A field full of chile plants in the Rio Grande Valley of New Mexico
Some beautiful chile fields full of peppers during the chile season

What is the Hatch Chile Season?

The Hatch chile season typically refers to the time when Hatch chile is harvested in New Mexico. This is the only time to get fresh Hatch green chiles, and also is the best time to get fresh roasted chile too. During this time, chile roasters and Hatch chile markets like Farmers Chile Market pop up throughout New Mexico and surrounding states. Although one can buy frozen green chile from many grocery stores nowadays, the varieties of chile available are much less than during the Hatch chili season. In case someone is referring to the Hatch chile growing season, it typically begins when seeds are planted, usually sometime in April depending on weather conditions.

When is the Hatch Chile Season?

Traditionally, the harvest season starts in early August, and goes until the first freeze in late October. However, in recent years, some enterprising producers have begun picking select varieties of green chile in July. It’s important to note that these early arrivals are typically “transplant chile,” grown from hot house seedlings rather than directly sown seeds. This early harvest offers a tantalizing preview of the season to come, but the true magic unfolds a few weeks later. We don’t sell until August, as we feel that chile which is harvested in July doesn’t have time to fully mature. Because of this, it is too tender, and often gets destroyed in our chile roasters. Roasting chile at scale with barrel roasters is a delicate balance, and having subprime chile will result in less than optimal roasting results. At Farmers Chile Market, we will begin roasting on Friday August 2nd, 2024 this chile season!

A Season of Transformation

In early August, typically Medium chile, such as Big Jim, and Hot chile, like Sandia and Ms Junie are available first, as most farmers start and end with planting their best sellers. Along with this, dried chile products like red chile pods and powders and chile pasado are available from the previous season. These vibrant green chiles add a smoky and vegetal heat to salsas, stews, and countless other dishes. As the month progresses, the scene transforms once again. In late August and early September, all varieties of green chile and the first fresh red chile become available. From mild to xxx-hot Lumbre chile, everything is easily purchased at a chile roaster. The full spectrum of green chile heat levels are ready to be transformed into rich enchiladas sauces, a burger topping, or much more. Many New Mexicans like me have their first fresh roasted chile of the year in a more simple way with a little shredded cheese, garlic salt, and a tortilla.

A bunch of xxx-hot Lumbre Hatch chiles at Farmers Chile Market in Albuqueruque
This Lumbre will light you up

Peak Season Delights

September marks the pinnacle of Hatch chile season. Fresh red chile becomes availalbe, and all flavors from mild to xxx-hot are also easily gotten. This is also the time to find red chile ristras, long strings of dried red chiles that add a decorative touch to kitchens and a smoky depth to soups and stews. You can get a sack of fresh red chile at Farmers Chile Market during the months of September and October to tie your own ristra if you like! In addition to the large Sandia chile ristras, we also have small ristras made with chile pequin, or chile de arbol as it is commonly called in Mexico. We also carry special shapes like red chile wreaths, hearts, and crosses! Be sure to check out the variety of ristras we have for sale online!

Many different varieties of New Mexico chile, including Big Jim, Miss Junie, and Lumbre
Peak season has many varieties and ripeness levels to choose from!

A Festival in the mid-Season

the Hatch water-tower taken during the Hatch Chile Festival during peak chile season
Hatch, NM is a great place to visit on Labor Day Weekend

Crowds flock to the Hatch Chile Festival on Labor Day weekend, a vibrant celebration of all things chile, with cook-offs, salsa competitions, and vendors offering an overwhelming array of chile-infused delights. The air thrums with the sounds of mariachi music and laughter, a testament to the deep cultural significance of this beloved tradition. This festival, along with the rich history of local farmers collaborating with NMSU researchers is a big reason why so many people call New Mexico chile Hatch chile.

people learning to tie chile ristras at the Hatch Chile Festival
You can learn how to tie a chile ristra at the Hatch Chile Festival!

A Winding Down and a Look Ahead

October signifies the gradual winding down of the season. Farmers markets become a canvas of diminishing red and green, replaced by the hues of autumn vegetables. In Albuquerque, we at Farmers Chile Market at 2010 Eubank Blvd NE experiences a final surge in demand during the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. Tourists and locals alike flock to stock up on the last of the season’s bounty before it disappears until next year. The Balloon Fiesta is just one of many things to do in Albuquerque.

Although we still have chile beyond that, the demand slows down a lot, and supply also closely follows it. Chile season ends when the fields get their first freeze, typically in late October. The majority of chile in New Mexico is grown in the southern half of the state. Because of this, it is often couple weeks after Albuquerque and Santa Fe cool down. We have even roasted chile in Albuquerque when snow is falling before, but this is rare. If the weather stays warm longer, often the less popular varieties like mild and xxx-hot run out sooner, as farmers don’t plant as many fields of them. Typically entire chile fields start turning red around the same time. The way farmers plan for this is by planting different fields at different times so they can have a supply of green chile even late into the season.

Autumn Roast or Chile Pintado

One very popular thing about October chile is that more red chile comes in the sacks of chile. This chile, often called Autumn Roast or chile pintado, is something asked for specifically by many of our customers in the later months. The picture of chile roasting at the top of this article is exactly what many people are looking for! The increased ripeness of the chile leads to an overall sweeter flavor profile than a typical sack of green chile, but it isn’t as sweet as a sack of fresh red chile. One thing to keep in mind when asking for autumn roast chile, is that it roasts more inconsistently than just green chile. The more developed fresh red chile has a resilient peel that takes longer to blister than green chile. Because of this, expect it to take more time to peel a sack of it.

a sack of chile pintado, mixed red and green chile roasting during peak Hatch chile season
Late season chile often looks like this!

Challenges and Enduring Passion

While the exact timing and varieties available can fluctuate from year to year, the essence of Hatch chile season remains constant. It’s a time for New Mexicans to reconnect with their heritage, share traditions with loved ones, and savor the unique flavors that have become synonymous with our state. However, the future of this beloved tradition faces challenges. Decreasing acreage dedicated to chile farming and water scarcity are forcing adjustments to the planting schedule and overall availability. The 2023 dried red chile pod shortage, when just about every chile store in New Mexico ran out, serves as a stark reminder of these vulnerabilities.

Despite the uncertainties, the enduring passion for Hatch chiles persists. New Mexico State University’s Chile Pepper Institute is actively researching drought-resistant chile varieties and exploring alternative growing methods like hydroponics. Local small businesses like ours are also working together to support chile growers and ensure the long-term sustainability of the crop. Hatch and the New Mexico chile season will likely continue to evolve, adapting to changing circumstances. But one thing remains certain: the captivating aroma of roasting chile filling the air each summer will continue to ignite a sense of joy and community throughout New Mexico.

Hatch Chile season 2024

This 2024 Hatch chile season, be sure to experience the magic firsthand, you won’t be disappointed! Visiting a chile roaster is without a doubt the best thing you can do if you visit New Mexico during the chile season. Few places in the world have places to really feel the food culture like a New Mexico chile roaster. Regardless of where you are in New Mexico, you should be able to find one blasting away and creating our state’s aroma, one sack at a time. Immerse yourself in the vibrant markets, savor the smoky flavors in traditional dishes, and witness the enduring spirit of this cherished New Mexican tradition. The chile season comes at the perfect time in New Mexico, as many events are happening around the state. Because of that, be sure to make the Land of Enchantment your fall travel destination!

A chile roasted filled with Hatch chile pintado, or red and green chile roasting in Albuquerque, New Mexico
We can’t wait to roast chile this 2024 season and beyond!