The Delicious Eagle Has Landed
So there I am, sitting on a Southwest Airlines flight, headed for El Paso.
As we haven’t yet cleared 10,000 feet, I can’t use my Kindle, so I’m idly flipping through the pages of the Spirit in flight magazine.
And what to my wondering eyes should appear, but an ad for the beautimous Hatch green chile.
The copy claims that this precious commodity will be for sale in many grocery chains near me!
I unceremoniously tore the ad out of the mag. I had to clutch it to my heart!
I showed the ad to my friends there in the southern part of New Mexico, and they told me that due to NAFTA, the local farmers are getting beat out on selling their beautiful crops.
The New Mexico Department of Agriculture is putting on a marketing drive to try to stir up some sales.
The tagline? “Get Your Fix.”
Why yes, I think I will. Thankyouverymuch.
So I was in my local Whole Foods store, perusing the fresh produce, when my peripheral vision locked on the word, “Hatch.”
There, in my very store, shiny green peppers stacked high.
I RAN over to the display.
But my brain said, “hoooooold on a minute.”
I looked a little closer at the sign.
Can you read the sign in this image?
It says, “Hatch peppers” and just above that it says, “Grown in California.”
What the @#*$%@&*^%$!!!!
This is not right.
This is NOT correct.
This is definitely not ok.
So I laid the waxy green vegetable back on the pile and walked away.
This was not the treasure I sought.
Over this Labor Day weekend, I wrote a terse email to the NMDA asking them if the word “Hatch” can be applied to California grown chiles, or if this sign is in error.
I await their reply.
Yesterday, during my lunch hour, I ran to the Nob Hill Foods (also known as Raley’s) near where I work to pick up a couple things. I never shop at Nob Hill, but it was the closest grocer near work.
Once again, my “Hatch” radar picked up something at the periphery.
I fear I couldn’t get excited.
I slowly walked toward the word “Hatch” and sniffed the air near the display.
And I looked closely at the sign. They spelled “chile” wrong.
But still…could it be? Have I found the good stuff? Did I just accidentally stumble upon The Precious?
Yes. Yes I did.
I filled a produce bag to bursting and made them mine. Those beautiful chiles sat in the backseat of my car all afternoon, and they made the inside of my car smell heavenly.
This year, The Good Man finally gets to know what the smell of roasting green chile (and the smell of Autumn) is truly about, because it will permeate the corners our home.
My mother told me that the chile grown near La Joya changed when she was a little girl because NMSU developed a type of chile that was called 'Numero 9' which was resistant to many of the maladies that native New Mexico chile as grown in La Joya was prone to. She said that she remembered that most Joyeros were opposed to using the new chile because they tasted different. Over time, though, the old New Mexico strain of chile was replaced by the this new variety.
Since then NMSU established the Chile Pepper Institute to develop better strains of chile and to promote chile's use.
Today there are many types of 'New Mexico' chile grown in Hatch. They range from the 'Big Jim' to 'Sandia' to 'New Mexico 6-4' plus many others. Many old timers say that the 6-4 variety is closest to the native New Mexico variety. Your mileage may vary. Most chile sold as Hatch chile is the Big Jim variety.
My son just sent me this photo. Take a look. It'll make you homesick.
BTW my wife said she roasts chili over an open flame on the stovetop which works well but is very tedious. She also said that she sweats the chile in a covered container and then places each serving in an individual plastic bag without removing the charred peeling. Each serving is then peeled when its defrosted. Supposedly, the chile tastes better this way. Did you know that many chefs in New Mexico place roasted chile in an open container high in their restaurant because the smell makes the patrons hungry and they order more.
Ephraim – Personally, I'm a big fan of Big Jim peppers. That's the variety I purchased and I'm happy.
Thanks for the roasting tips. I will probably roast on a bbq grill or under the broiler. I usually lay a warm wet towel on fresh roasted chiles to steam off the skins (as Mary suggested. She's a smart lady!).
I had no idea about that sneaky trick in NM restaurants! But it works!!
I'm glad you hunted down the authentic Chile in the end. I didn't know about the spelling!
Anji – Yeah, the way it has been explained to me is that chili, with an i, is the thick stew with meat and beans. Chile, with a e, is the pepper.
Both are tasty, however!
And some chile on your chili is really delicious!
I make my Chilli without chile because my husband doesn't like it! (I sneak a tiny bit in anyway)
Oh Anji, those pesky husbands! Chili without a little chile is just…stew.