New Mexico chile

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New Mexico chile
Hatch green chile.jpg
Genus Capsicum
Species Capsicum annuum L.
Marketing names Hatch chile, green chile, red chile, Anaheim pepper
Breeder Fabian Garcia
Origin New Mexico
Heat Hot
Scoville scale 0–70,000

New Mexico chile is a cultivar of the chile pepper developed by Dr. Fabian Garcia at New Mexico State University in 1888, then known as Las Cruces College and the New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts, created from a hybrid of various Pueblo and Santa Fe de Nuevo México cultivars. The New Mexican type chile grows best in the climate of its heritage, and is a key component in New Mexican cuisine, these peppers are so ubiquitous in New Mexico that the term chile is used, usually as fresh green chile or the ripened red chile. The New Mexico chile pepper is also popular in the broader Mexican cuisine and the cuisine of the Southwestern United States.

Chile grown in the Hatch Valley, in and around Hatch, New Mexico is called Hatch chile. The chile grown there, and along the entire Rio Grande and at New Mexico's Pueblos, has created an important industry to the economy of New Mexico as a whole.[1] Not only is the industry important economically, it is also a prominent part of New Mexican culture. Though chile peppers are fruits, since they are savory they are eaten like vegetables as a main dish or side, the New Mexico chile pepper is the official state vegetable, and the official New Mexico state question is "Red or Green?".[2]

The flavor of New Mexico green chile pepper has been described as lightly pungent similar to onion or garlic, subtly sweet, spicy, crisp and smoky.[3] While the ripened red retains that, and adds an earthiness and bite to it; while it ages, it also mellows the front-heat and delivers more of a back-heat.[4][5] The spiciness of the peppers varies depending on the variety of New Mexico chile type peppers.[6]


The New Mexico type peppers were first grown by the Pueblo after the Spanish Santa Fe de Nuevo México arrived. Each of the Pueblos continue to grow their own distinct New Mexico type peppers, and they each have their own distinct pungency, sweetness, taste, and heat. For example, the Zia Pueblo pepper is a pepper that becomes a bitter-sweet flavor when it matures into its red color. Once the Spanish arrived they brought European cultivation techniques to the chile pepper, and eventually created cultivars in their towns.[7]

The New Mexican type cultivars were developed by Dr. Fabian Garcia, whose major release was the New Mexico No. 9 in 1913.[8] These cultivars are "hotter" than others in order to suit the tastes of New Mexicans in their traditional foods. Fabian Garcia also founded the New Mexico State University Chile Pepper Institute, studies New Mexico chile, as well as peppers from around the world.


New Mexico chile-type peppers are grown from seeds – and each of the individual pepper types are specifically bred and grown to be disease free and provide consistent and healthy plants within their specific regions. Altitude, sunlight, soil, and acreage can have and effect on the peppers taste and heartiness; the New Mexican climate allows for the sunshine, altitude, soil, and acreage the plants require for propagation. The Rio Grande Bosque, mountains, and high deserts, provide the appropriate altitude and sunlight that the chile requires. To ensure that a particular pepper's lineage remains disease free and can best suit its altitude, within its heritage region, specific seeds from specific plants are selected with care. An example of a New Mexico chile being grown outside the state is the Anaheim peppers, these peppers are extremely resilient to multiple altitudes: but they display a quirk with the New Mexico chile pepper, without reintroducing seeds from their heritage soil, each successive generation of pepper becomes more susceptible to disease and it loses its flavor. Which is why chile pepper farmers usually order seeds from their heritage soils, every few generations, in order to reinvigorate their crop. This allows for the New Mexico chile pepper to have an incredible continuing production.[9][10][11] Seed distributors and sellers from New Mexico, California, and Colorado provide this service to farmers.

Grown in New Mexico[edit]

New Mexico chile peppers grown in New Mexico are the most sought after, since their flavor, texture, and heartiness are heavily dependent on their growing environment. The peppers were originally grown by the Pueblo, and each of their distinct Pueblo peppers grow best in their heritage soil. This same trend has continued with other New Mexico chile peppers, those grown by the farmers among the Spanish, Mexican, and American frontiersmen. Among the New Mexican grown chile peppers, the ones with the most accolades are grown along the Rio Grande, especially along the Hatch Valley.[12][13]

A certification program was started in 2014, New Mexico Certified Chile, attempting to certify the growing of New Mexico chile peppers. The program tries to protect New Mexico chile consumers from falsely labeled products, while protecting farmers from a potential diminishing of demand, and to allow larger amounts of New Mexico chile to be grown within the state. Since the program is rather new, it has garnered some criticism, especially in regard to restricting smaller farmers that have been growing peppers from lineages of more than 400 years of seeds.[14]

Hatch chile[edit]

Hatch chile refers to varieties of species of the genus Capsicum which are grown in the Hatch Valley, an area stretching north and south along the Rio Grande from Arrey, New Mexico, in the north to Tonuco Mountain to the south of Hatch, New Mexico. The soil and growing conditions in the Hatch Valley create a unique terroir[15] which contributes to the flavor of chile grown there. Most of the varieties of chile cultivated in the Hatch Valley have been developed at New Mexico State University over the last 130 years.

Hatch chile can be purchased locally in many parts of the Southwest, and is distributed throughout the United States by companies such as, World Variety Produce. If you are unable to find them in a local grocery store, you could also source them direct from farms online such as the Hatch Chile Express[16] or the Hatch Chile Store.[17] Other distributors sometimes use the "Hatch" name, but do not actually grow and process their chile in the Hatch Valley.[18] In an effort to protect Hatch growers and other New Mexican growers, a law passed in New Mexico in 2012 makes it illegal for chile to be labeled as "New Mexican" if it was not grown in New Mexico.[19] Chiles grown around the town are marketed under the name of the town, and are often sold fresh-roasted in New Mexico and neighboring states in the early autumn.

Pueblo chiles[edit]

Pueblo chiles have been cultivated by the Puebloan peoples of New Mexico for centuries. The Acoma Pueblo chile pepper is a mild chile pepper, with a lightly flavorful pungency.[20] The Isleta Pueblo chile pepper becomes a fruity sweet flavor as it grows into its red chile state. The Zia Pueblo chile pepper becomes a bitter-sweet flavor when it matures into its red color, and its heat is similar to the Heritage 6-4.[21]

Rio Grande chile[edit]

Along the rest of the Rio Grande, outside of the Hatch Valley, there are multiple other locations that grow award-winning chiles in their own right.

Multiple towns and cities across New Mexico have strong chile traditions, including; Chimayo, Española, Corrales, and from Bosque Farms to Los Ranchos de Albuquerque in the Albuquerque area.

Outside of New Mexico[edit]

There are several places where New Mexico chile peppers are grown, outside of New Mexico.

Another place where some quality chile peppers grow is at Pueblo, Colorado. These peppers are not related to the New Mexico chile pepper, nor are they to be confused by the ancient New Mexico chile grown by the New Mexican Pueblo peoples. The most sought after peppers grown in Pueblo, Colorado, are related to the Guajillo chili, otherwise known as the Mirasol peppers. They are distinct, in and of themselves, and are not related to New Mexico chile.[22]

Anaheim pepper[edit]

Anaheim pepper
Heat Low
Scoville scale 500–5,000

An Anaheim pepper is a mild variety of the New Mexico chile pepper cultivar No. 9. The name "Anaheim" derives from Emilio Ortega, a farmer who brought the seeds from New Mexico to the Anaheim, California, area in the early 1900s.[23] They are also called California chile or Magdalena, and dried as chile seco del norte.

The chile "heat" of Anaheims varies wildly from 500 to 2,500 on the Scoville scale;[24] however, typical cultivars grown in New Mexico can selectively and uniformly range from 500 to 10,000 Scoville units.[25]



Half cup of hot green chile peppers
Nutritional value per 75 grams
Energy 30 kJ (7.2 kcal)
7.1 g
Sugars 3.82 g
Dietary fiber 1.1 g
0.15 g
Saturated 0.016 g
Monounsaturated 0.008 g
Polyunsaturated 0.082g
1.5 g
Vitamin A equiv.
884 μg
503 μg
544 μg
Thiamine (B1)
0.068 mg
Riboflavin (B2)
0.068 mg
Niacin (B3)
0.712 mg
0.046 mg
Vitamin B6
0.209 mg
Folate (B9)
17 μg
Vitamin C
181.9 mg
Vitamin E
0.52 mg
Vitamin K
10.7 μg
Trace metals
14 mg
0.9 mg
19 mg
35 mg
255 mg
5 mg
0.22 mg
Other constituents
Water 65.8 g

Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.
Green chile, unroasted
Red chile, dried.

The most commonly grown New Mexico chile peppers are the New Mexico 6-4, Big Jim, Sandia, and No. 6 and 9 cultivars. To reflect this there are also the improved Heritage 6-4, Heritage Big Jim, and Sandia Select cultivars that provide a better yield and uniformity. The Anaheim peppers are commonly grown outside of New Mexico, and are related to the New Mexico No. 6 and 9, when grown out of state they have a higher variability rate.

The green chiles are served roasted and peeled, whole or diced, but they are also served as various sauces. The most common usages for these diced chiles, or sauces, is; in enchiladas, burritos, burgers, french fries, rice, or a wide variety of other dishes. They are also served whole raw or as fried or baked Chile rellenos. New Mexican style chile rellenos follow the much more traditional Mexican technique of being covered with egg batter and fried, although variations and casseroles do exist.

In addition to local restaurants, many national food chains such as McDonalds and Jack in the Box offer locally-grown green chile on many of their menu items in New Mexico.[26]

The red chile, the matured green chile, is frequently dried or as a powder. These dried or powdered peppers are turned into a red chile sauce. The dried peppers are rehydrated, through boiling in a pot, and then blended with various herbs and spices, like onion and garlic. The red chile powder is usually simply blended with water, herbs, and spices.

Adding both red and green chile to a dish is sometimes referred to "Christmas" style. Both green and red chile can be dried and turned into a powder, though this is more common with red chile.


Chile roasting refers to roasting of green chiles, most commonly occurring during harvest season, in Autumn, throughout New Mexico. The process can be done at the time of purchase, in an horno, or at home.[27]

The commercial process, being done at purchase, usually involves an operator taking the part as chile roaster which involves standing near and turning a cylindrical cage drum over propane fueled flames, ensuring the chile pods are heated on every side, as they shed their skins; this ensures the chile skins blister appropriately, to allow for easier peeling of the chile. This process is the most popular method, since the smell has become a staple during the early New Mexican autumn, it offers a physical display of the chile, it offers the sound of the chiles crackling, the sight of the blistering and falling skins, accompanied by the widely distributed smell of the roasting peppers.[28][29]

Horno roasting the chiles, which is less often done, is a traditional method of roasting the chile. A more common traditional method involves simply roasting over any open flame, stove-tops and grills are commonly used for home roasting.


A ristra is an arrangement of drying chili pepper pods, and is a popular decorative design in the state of New Mexico, some households use ristras as a means to dry and procure red chile.

The red and green chile peppers are often depicted in New Mexican artwork, and are used as symbols for New Mexican cuisine.


Though most New Mexico type peppers are long pod-type peppers, that ripen from green to red. The multitude of New Mexico type cultivars have a slight variance in taste, and widely varying appearances and heat levels.[30][31] Some varieties may turn yellow, orange, or brown.

The most common New Mexico chile peppers are the New Mexico 6-4, Big Jim, Sandia, and No. 6 and 9 cultivars. Peppers like the Chimayo, Velarde, Jemez, Escondida, Alcalde, San Filipe, Española, and several others, represent what is known as the New Mexico's unique landrace chiles, which provide their own unique tastes and usually command a higher price.

Cultivar Description Length Width Scoville heat units
Conquistador A very mild non pungent pepper, green before ripening into a red color. 6.5 inches (17 cm) 0
Eclipse Part of the Sunrise, Sunset, and Eclipse pepper line; Eclipse matures into a brown color. 5.11 inches (13.0 cm) 1.92 inches (4.9 cm) 300 ~ 500
R Naky Developed by Dr. Roy Nakayama in 1985, from a mix of the Rio Grande, 6-4, and Bulgarian Paprika. 5.5 inches (14 cm) 500 ~ 1,000
Sunrise Part of the Sunrise, Sunset, and Eclipse pepper line; Sunrise matures into a orange color. 7.08 inches (18.0 cm) 1.46 inches (3.7 cm) 500 ~ 1,000
Española An old chile pepper, has a slightly stronger pungent and bitter flavor and matures early to red, first grown by the Spanish settlers in the San Juan Valley, near modern day Española. 4.92 inches (12.5 cm) 1.50 inches (3.8 cm) 1,500 ~ 2,000
Española Improved Hybridization of the Sandia and the Española pepper. Provides Española's taste and early maturing, with a better yield, and larger peppers. 6 inches (15 cm) 1.75 inches (4.4 cm) 1,500 ~ 2,000
Joe E. Parker Thicker walled 6-4, with a heat variance based on growing conditions. 6.50 inches (16.5 cm) 2 inches (5.1 cm) 1,500 ~ 4,500
Heritage 6-4 A 200-seed sample of the original "New Mexico 6-4", obtained from the Plant Germplasm Preservation Research Unit (PGPRU) at the National Center for Genetic Resources Preservation, in Ft. Collins, Colorado. The PGPRU received the seed in 1962 and placed it in cryogenic storage. The flavor of the plant was rehabilitated from these seeds. 6.70 inches (17.0 cm) 3.70 inches (9.4 cm) 1,559
6-4 An heirloom variety developed by Dr. Fabian Garcia. 6.60 inches (16.8 cm) 3.80 inches (9.7 cm) 1,786
Rio Grande 2,500 ~ 5,000
Sandia 5,000 ~ 10,000
Big Jim 6,510
Heritage Big Jim 9,482
Barker's Hot 15,000 ~ 30,000
Luci Fairy 30,000 ~ 50,000
XX Hot 60,000 ~ 70,000


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