The Myth of Hatch Chiles

Posted by: Dave DeWitt

There is no such thing as a Hatch chile, despite all the hype about them.  It is not a chile variety, as many people think.  Yes, there are chiles grown in Hatch, usually the varieties 'Barker' and 'NuMex 6-4'.  These grown-in-Hatch varieties are no better than those grown in the Mesilla Valley or in Deming.  There are simply not enough chiles grown in Hatch to supply all of the sellers claiming to provide "Hatch chile."  A few years ago at the New Mexico Chile Conference, I spoke to two women who have a chile farm in eastern Arizona who confessed to me that they shipped their chiles to Hatch, where roadside vendors labeled them "Hatch chiles."  So, how did this mythology come about?  Well, first, there is a Hatch brand of canned chiles, packed by Border Foods in Deming.  This brand has been on the market for years, but probably most of these chiles are grown in Mexico, not Hatch.  Then there is what Jimmy Buffet calls the "coconut telegraph," but here it's the Capsicum Telegraph--namely word of mouth and rumor from consumers who mistakenly spread the hype.  Sorry to burst everyone's Hatch bubble, but I always tell it like it is.  Photo by Paul Ross, shot in Hatch.

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