There are not many things New Mexicans cherish more than chile. The best green chile in the world is grown in the fertile Hatch and Rio Grande Valleys in New Mexico. For many generations, chile has been part of the rich culture and heritage New Mexico is famous for. New Mexico Chiles are a staple ingredient in the state’s most popular culinary dishes. Locals and visitors alike slather their food with chile, share recipes passed down from tias, abuelas — aunts and grandmothers, and argue over who makes the best rellenos.
In 1999, the New Mexico legislature adopted an official state question “red vs. green chile”. For anyone who has dined in a traditional New Mexico restaurant you have likely been asked which type of chile you prefer -“red or green chile”. The debate over red vs. green chile will likely last for generations to come.
New Mexico chiles possess such an exceptional reputation for taste and flavor that many chile producers outside of New Mexico attempt to brand their product inaccurately as “New Mexico chiles”. Recently the New Mexico Chile Advertising Act was passed by the New Mexico legislature along with Governor Susana Martinez to make it unlawful for businesses to advertise their product as being made with New Mexico chiles unless the chile was actually grown in New Mexico. More chile peppers are grown in New Mexico than all other states making it truly the chile capital of the world. The New Mexico chile industry provides around 5,000 jobs to the local economy.
To celebrate the history of chile in New Mexico, the city of Hatch hosts the annual Hatch Chile Festival during Labor Day Weekend. This festival has entertained visitors and locals for more than forty years. In addition to this festival, the Green Chile Cheeseburger trail was established to showcase the region’s best cheeseburgers. Chile truly is addictive and people travel from all over the United States to enjoy the amazing chile flavors New Mexico has to offer. Feel free to visit the Hatch Chile Festival website.
The New Mexican-type chile is an important ingredient in the Southwestern food industry. Chiles have grown from a regional food for families, tourists to an important international export. Improvement of New Mexican chile cultivars through breeding is a major thrust at New Mexico State University (NMSU). New Mexico has the longest continuous program of chile improvement in the world.
The chile improvement program began in 1888 with Dr. Fabian Garcia. All New Mexican-type chiles grown today gained their genetic base from cultivars first developed at NMSU. Historically, the most important cultivar is ‘New Mexico NO. 9.’ In 1913, Dr. Garcia released the ‘New Mexico No.9.’ This cultivar was important historically, not only because it was the first chile cultivar released from NMSU, but also because it introduced a new pod type—‘New Mexican’—to the world.
Selecting for the New Mexican pods began in 1894 when Dr. Garcia began improving the local chile varieties grown by Hispanic gardeners around Las Cruces, NM. Today, the New Mexican pod type is also called long green or ‘Anaheim.’ Actually, the pod type is New Mexican, and chiles like ‘NuMex Big Jim’ and ‘Anaheim’ are cultivars within this pod type. ‘Anaheim’ seed originated in New Mexico and was taken to Anaheim, CA, where it was widely cultivated among other pepper varieties grown there.
Chile’s most recognizable trait is heat. Each New Mexico chile variety developed has its own characteristics including pungency, size & flavor. Information provided by NMSU’s College of Agriculture and Home Economics.
The most popular and widely used long green chile varieties developed by NMSU include: