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Cabbage Field Near Las CrucesWe hear so much about New Mexico chiles that we tend to forget that many other crops are grown in our state.  The number one ag crop is alfalfa and the number one food crop, in value, is pecans, and chiles are second now.  But we also grow lots of fresh market crops like, believe it or not, cabbage, seen at left.  Farmers in New Mexico also grow lots of onions and peanuts.


On a recent trip to Las Cruces, I encountered the Cotton Field Near Salemthree fields in this post from Arrey south to Las Cruces.  A very important non-food crop in New Mexico is cotton, and the brilliant white bolls really stand out, as you can see in the next pic, at right.

That said, we are most famous for chile peppers and rightly so.  The green chile harvest is mostly over now, and Red Chile Field, Arrey, New Mexicogrowers are letting the pods turn red and they partially dry on the plant.  These pods can be machine-harvested, unlike the green pods, which are hand-picked because they are more fragile. The large field at left, near Arrey, will be harvested soon and the pods placed in tunnel dryers to complete the process.  Then the pods will be bagged and sold, or ground into powder, or made into ristras for home decoration.


The Legend of St. Salsa

Posted by: Dave DeWitt

Tagged in: tasty travel , history

 

Ruins of the Basilica of St. SalsaOn the summit of the eastern hill, Koudiat Zarour, and about 300 metres beyond the ramparts, may be seen the remains of a large church, the most interesting monument in the place, the basilica in which was interred St. Salsa. Her parents were pagans, but Salsa had been baptized, and though only fourteen years of age, she was animated with the most enthusiastic faith. One day her parents took her, in spite of her reluctance, to a feast in honour of the brazen serpent. She protested fearlessly against the sacrifices and impure rejoicings which took place, and when the spectators had finished their rites and were sunk in a drunken sleep, she took the head of the serpent and cast it into the sea. She returned with the intention of throwing the body in also, but it made so much noise in falling that it awakened the sleeping populace, who rushed upon the girl, stoned her, pierced her with swords and arrows, and cast her body into the sea that it might be deprived of burial rites. The waves, however, carried it into the harbour, close to the vessel of a certain Saturninus, who had just arrived from Gaul; a tempest suddenly arose, and Saturninus, then asleep, had a vision that if he did not give burial to a body in the sea near his vessel, he would certainly perish. At first he paid no attention to this warning, but the gale increased, and as all hope of safety appeared gone, he leapt into the water, and his hand was miraculously guided to the girdle of the saint. He took the body in his arms, rose to the surface, and immediately the storm was succeeded by a perfect calm.

From: Sir Robert Lambert Playfair, Handbook for Travellers in Algeria and Tunis. London: J. Murray, 1895.

Editor's Note: This story took place in Tipasa, Algeria around 400 A.D. Today, in Tipasa, nothing remains of the basilica except ruins. In this case, “salsa” has nothing to do with chile peppers. In Latin, “salsa” is plural and means salted foods.


Full Judging TablesA  record number of judges showed up for our 15th annual Scovie Awards judging on October 4, 2010 at the County Line Restaurant in Albuquerque. More than 100 food industry professionals—plus foodie media people—crowded into two sessions with six tables each and tasted about 650 products. This means that the average product entered got tasted and judged by six or more judges, an all-time record for us.

The real surprise of the judging were the eventual scores for Grand Prize Winner—the highest recorded score out of a perfect 50. For the first time in Scovie history, we had a tie to three decimal places and were unable to break it, so congratulations to our co-Grand Prize Winners, Barhyte Foods’ Saucy Mama Creamy Horseradish and Poco Dolce’s Super Chile Toffee Squares. The Advertising and Marketing Grand Prize Winner was Crazy Uncle Jesters’ Company or Product Logo/Label. A Grand Prize Winner that’s a sweet heat product is not unusual at all, as fully half of our Grand Prize  Winners have been in that category.  But horseradish finishing so strongly, that’s simply remarkable.  Complete Scovie results are posted here.

Spicy Mama Creamy Horseradish Super Chile Toffee Crazy Uncle Jester Logo

Journalist and author Larry Greenly claims he has been a judge at every single Scovie Judging—and I have no reason to doubt this. Thanks, Larry, you’re a loyal chilehead!



Break an EggAt this fairly new restaurant, the idea and decor are better than the food.  But what a great idea!  The name is a pun on that stage encouragement, "Break a leg," so the restaurant (breakfast and lunch only) has a movie theme.  Film strips decorate the walls, along with movie posters and TVs showing classic films.  When I ate there with Kristina Martinez of the NMSU Library, they were showing "The King and I," which has nice spectacle but doesn't fit the theme.  "The Egg and I" (Fred MacMurry, 1947), "Breakfast at Tiffany's,"  "Humpty Dumpty" (1935), or anything starring Kevin Bacon would have been better to show.  "The Amazing Omelette" (2005) would have been perfect because every actor wears pancake makeup!  Its menu is a "script" with numerous "acts," like "Egg-Cademy Award Winners," "Scene Stealers," and "Box Office Hits."  There are an incredible number of breakfast options with titles like "The Gaffer" (Eggs Florentine) and "The Cinematographer" (Eggs Rellenos).  They have a separate Southwest menu, and I had the "Machaca Skillet," but it was quite ordinary pulled beef with a mysterious-looking sauce that was spicy without having much flavor.  Even their coffee is just average.  That said, their pecan muffins were great.  I would rate it an "A" for decor and a "C" for food quality.  It's at 201 South Solano in Las Cruces, 575-647-300.



Color Change in Bhut Jolokia

Harald Zoschke, our key chilehead correspondent in Europe, reports:

  • Our Calabrian-grown 'Bhut Jolokia' tested at 818,386 SHU (twice the result of Assam-grown 'Bhut' analyzed at the same lab in Hamburg, btw.!)
  • The Indians' superhot 'Chocolate Bhut' that I had tested gave only 417,888 SHU at the Hamburg lab.
  • This year, red 'Bhut' powder from Assam (directly from the grower/producer) traded to Germany as having "850,000 SHU," was tested in Hamburg and it delivered only 373,821 SHU - even some Chocolate Habaneros are almost that hot.  
  • Harald also notes: "Returning to my 'Fatalii' theory... A customer who purchased original Assamese 'Bhut' seeds from our shop complained that the pods weren't red but yellow. Bhut MutantHe was kind enough to send me some of those pods, and here's a red pod from my test plant, and his yellow mutant (both grown from from the same seed batch). While red is a dominant gene, obviously this (recessive) yellow gene came through on that other plant. Looks quite 'Fatalii', doesn't it? So who knows.... A friend of mine from Italy also reported about a yellow Bhut  just a few weeks ago. I sent our customer  a replacement pack of seeds, but I'll sure test-grow seeds from that yellow pod next year.  When comparing Scoville results, it is important which HPLC standard is used. Our food lab in Hamburg, Germany uses the defacto standard ASTA 21.3."


 

Jonah 7 Superhot ChileFor the 5+ years that the rumors and then stories about the  superhot 'Bhut Jolokia' from Assam in northeast India have surfaced, I've wondered about its origin.  Pods of Capsicum chinense are found all over the Caribbean, from the Scotch bonnet in Jamaica to goat peppers in Haiti to bonney peppers in Barbados.  However, it is the country of Trinidad & Tobago that seems to have the largest number of land races of that species, including the Congo pepper, the Scorpion, the 7 Pot, and now the Jonah 7, pictured here.  Of all of these, it's the Jonah 7 which most resembles the 'Bhut Jolokia', and the India connection to Trinidad is very clear: 40% of the people have an Indian ancestry, as compared to 37.5 % with an African ancestry.  So it's my theory that sometime after the Indian migration to T&T began in 1845, some enterprising person took Jonah seeds to India and they ended up as Bhut Jolokia, or "ghost pepper" in Assamese.  Recently, Marlin Bensinger, a friend of mine and the world's foremost expert on capsaicin extraction and testing, performed HPLC tests on the Jonah 7, and it was in the precise heat range of 'Bhut Jolokia'.  So maybe a mystery has been solved!  Thanks to Jim Duffy in San Diego, who grew out the pods and photographed them.

My esteemed colleague in Germany, Harald Zoschke, comments: "My theory is that Bhut evolved from Fatalii (which, of course could very well come from Trinidad, brought home to Africa by returning slaves). Please take a look at the attached picture - a Bhut Jolokia and a Bhut and Fataali ComparisonFatalii pod from my greenhouse. To me, they look like close relatives (and there's a Red Fatalii around, too). Now, what if Bhut is a Red Fatalii that trade ships brought from its home, Central Africa, to India, hundreds of years ago. And there, it just got cross-pollinated to receive the C. frutescens gene traces that Paul Bosland's DNA test revealed. Or maybe those genes were in the Fatalii already, which a DNA test could easily prove, providing evidence for my theory. Remember, besides C. chinense, Bhut's Innards of Bhut and FataliiDNA includes 7% of C. frutescens. Fatalii could have picked this up from Malagueta, which had spread early in Africa, becoming pili-pili or peri-peri. Also, while Fatalii isn't quite as hot as Bhut, both share that intense "instant burn," as opposed to the Habanero's delayed burn. And as my pic #2 shows, both share the poor innards, with very few seeds.  Who knows, maybe all three are very closely related."                                                  Fat Bhut

My comment back is that in this particular instance, Harald's 'Bhut' certainly does resemble a 'Fatalii', but pod variations within a land race are common, and sometimes the pods on the same plant have different forms.  See another pod shape of the 'Bhut' at right.  This is because they are land races--adapted varieties that have been growing in the same geographic area for hundreds of years--and not recently bred-to-be-true varieties.  The only way to really figure this out is to compare the DNA of all these varieties.

 


Rocoto Pods Needed!

Posted by: Dave DeWitt

 

Rocoto PodDoes anyone out there have any rocoto pods (C. pubescens) that they could send me?  I need them for a photo shoot for our new digital magazine, Burn!, but I didn't grow any this year.  If you have four or five that you could send, please email me here.


 

Scovie Awards JudgingThe judging of our 14th annual Scovie Awards Competition was held yesterday at the County Line Barbecue Restaurant in Albuquerque and we were astonished by the response from the judges.  Usually we have an attrition rate of 10 to 20% for judges because these food professionals are such busy people.  But this time, nearly every judge showed up, and they brought friends!  About 90 judges showed up in two sessions and the tables were packed.  Fortunately, we had enough drinks and cool-downs for everyone, and although some tables had a slight delay because the judging 600+ products took a while, when it was all said and done, every product got tasted by more judges than usual.  Part of the delay was due to the diligence on the part of the judges, who took time to make a lot more comments than usual.  Thanks to everyone who participated, and the results will be announced in about two weeks.


New DD Books Published

Posted by: Dave DeWitt

Tagged in: history , fiery foods , entertainment , books

1001 Best CoverI'm pleased to announce the publication of two new books of mine.  The first, 1001 Best Hot & Spicy Recipes, is a compilation assembled from my rather large recipe archives.  I went through them and selected what I considered to be the best and most representative recipes from all cultures that like to spice up their foods with chiles.  Together with last year's The Complete Chile Pepper Book, these are all you would need to be certified an official chilehead.  I submitted a total of 1059 recipes just to be sure there were enough!  You can order the book at a discount from Amazon, here.

The next book is one that I'm really proud of.  For the second time (after Da Vinci's Kitchen), I abandoned writing about chiles and hot and spicy to try my hand at food Founding Foodies Coverhistory.  Because I graduated from the University of Virginia ("Mr. Jefferson's academical village"), I've always been a fan of Thomas Jefferson, and when I started researching his farming and gardening, that led me to George Washington (a better farmer, actually) and Benjamin Franklin, one of the more famous early American food lovers.  After three and a half years of research and writing, I completed The Founding Foodies: How Washington, Jefferson, and Franklin Revolutionized American Cuisine.  My agent, Scott Mendel, believes that it is one of my best books ever, and I take that a step further:  I think it's the best book I've ever written.  It's not scheduled for release until November 1, but you can pre-order it at Amazon, here.  You will not be disappointed, I promise.  Early American cuisine was surprisingly sophisticated, and both Washington and Jefferson grew chile peppers in their gardens.  Everyone loved barbecue back in those days--when it was mostly a political event featuring smoked ox or whole hogs, plus, of course, a great amount of beer and whiskey.  For more information and some excerpts from the book, see my founding foodies website, here.


Digital Magazine Survey Results

Posted by: Dave DeWitt

 

Burn!The final results of our digital magazine survey are in and the survey is now over. Thanks to everyone who participated and we now have a clearer view of what people are looking for in a monthly digital magazine.  As far as the basic information goes, the total respondents to the survey was 184 and the gender totals are 71% male and 29% female.  Only 19% are under 35 years of age while 81% are 36+, including 47% over the age of 46.  When asked if they would subscribe to a monthly digital magazine from the SuperSite publishers, 52% said maybe, 38% said yes, and 10% said no. (This by itself is very encouraging.)  We also asked if readers wanted a male-oriented magazine (15.2% said yes), a world travel and food magazine (12.1% said yes), a recipe-oriented magazine (12.1% said yes).  By far, recording 60.6%, people basically want us to continue what we started in 1987 with Chile Pepper magazine, continued in 1997 with Fiery Foods & BBQ, and are still doing with the SuperSite, namely a magazine devoted to chiles, fiery foods, and barbecue with articles, recipes, and how-to, so that's exactly what we intend to do.  We finally asked people to choose their three favorite cuisines, and the results were very revealing:

Mexican, 52.5%
American Barbecue, 49.5%
American Southwest, 47.5%
Asian, 40.4%
Creole/Cajun, 34.3%
Italian, 34.3%
Caribbean, 19.2%
India, 17.2%

So, in April, 2011, we will launch Burn! For Lovers of Peppers, Smoke, and Sauce, and the first issue will be introduced at the National Fiery Foods & Barbecue Show, March 4-6.  More details are coming soon, so stay tuned!


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