Photo by Jen Judge
Why go now: It’s harvest season for the Hatch green chile, that spicy nightshade that enlivens most New Mexican cuisine.
Claim to fame: Hatch calls itself the Chile Capital of the World, and with 18,000 acres of the fiery fruit growing in the valley around it, who are we to argue?
Dress code: Knee-high cowboy boots and Wranglers.
Backtrack: Hatch (population 1,600) was a major stop along the Santa Fe Railroad line back in 1880, three decades before New Mexico became a state.
Papa pepper: The modern New Mexican chile was first bred in 1921 by horticulturist Fabian Garcia. It helped usher in the Mexican-food craze in America.
True colors: Green or red? That’s the age-old chile debate. But really they’re one and the same: Color and heat are determined by the ripeness of the chile when picked.
High C: One fresh medium-size green chile has as much vitamin C as six oranges.
Cool down: Hatch chiles are delicate, so bring a cooler with ice to protect your take-home bounty.
Your spicy souvenir: There are plenty of roadside stands and shops in town to pick up a ristra or two of chiles, but you can’t go wrong at Hatch Chile Express. A 40-pound burlap sack full of medium-hot ‘Big Jim’ chiles will run you about $30. 657 N. Franklin St.; 575/267-3226.