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Exploring the World of Spice and Smoke
Tags >> chile varieties

Chimay├│ Chiles Not a Myth

Posted by: Dave DeWitt

Earlier in this blog I wrote about the "legendary Hatch chiles" being a total myth, but this time I'm writing about the northern New Mexico Chimayó chiles that are an endangered food crop.  They are a land race of chiles, meaning that they have been grown in the same area for hundreds of years and thus have become, with the hand of man, a cultivated variety.  An institute has been formed to save the Chimayó chiles and they are making a slight come back.  To read our article on northern New Mexico land races of chiles, go here.  To read about the Native Hispanic Institute, go here.


Historic Photo of Abelino & Faustino Martinez

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.

Jolokias in Florida

Posted by: Dave DeWitt

Tony Kamenoff in Orange City, Florida, writes:  "These are pics from December.  I had about60 peppers on my two plants from 3 to 3.5 inches long. I keep them in pots to move in and out according to the weather.  The plants came up in March and and first one did not have pods until August and finally ripened in October.  They are hot and have fruity taste, which makes them great for salsa and sauce boiled down in vinegar. "

Prolific 'Bhut' Keeps Producing

Posted by: Dave DeWitt

Tagged in: gardening , chile varieties


Neil O'Connor, who lives in Cape Coral, Florida, had a nice Christmas present in the fiery form of a prolific 'Bhut Jolokia' ("Ghost Pepper") plant. Neil writes: "While I was writing my email to you, my wife, Diane, looked over my shoulder and said 'You don't have 50 peppers on that plant.' She went out to count them and told me that she stopped at 65." Amazing. Good job, Neil! 

We continue to add new content at a record rate:

  • Learn how to grow the Capsicum baccatum species, here.
  • Everything we know about grilling chicken, here.
  • Back in 1990, Mary Jane and I visited Sonora for the chiltepin harvest, here.
  • Have a martini with your steak! Dr. BBQ's "Retro Grilling, here.



 Nancy Gerlach reports from Yucatán: 

I never thought I'd miss New Mexico chile so soon, but I do. The only fresh green chiles that are available here are poblanos. Of coarse we do get fresh jalapeños, habaneros, xcatik, and serranos. Last week I made a batch of my barbecue sauce substituting guajillos for the NM red and it didn't have a sweet chile flavor that you get with NM red. It was good, just different. I am convinced that there are absolutely no better tasting chiles than NM green and red.

I also want to report that the hot jalapeño is alive and well and growing in Mexico. I think you and I had a discussion before I left about how tame they had become in the U.S. and were almost as wild as a bell pepper. I actually stopped eating them and was substituting serranos in recipes. We bought some big jalapeños from our produce lady at the local market a couple of weeks ago and decided to make rellenos out of them with some leftover cochinita pibil that I had made. I took one small bite and I thought the top of my head was coming off! I flushed bright red, broke out in a sweat, and almost started hiccuping. The heat level of those puppies was almost as high as some habaneros and I thought of you and your reaction to them in the "old days." The next time we were at the stand, we told them about how hot they were and our reactions. Everyone around had a good laugh, and then we asked for more. 

Amazing Ornamentals

Posted by: Dave DeWitt

Marco Budinis reports from Parma, Italy.  It was field day at Azienda Agraria Sperimentale (Agricultural Experiment Station), and ornamental chile breeder Mario Dadomo was showing off the largest collection of ornamental chiles, or peperoncini, as he calls them, ever assembled.  At left is a beautiful chile heart.



Here is the field:

 And a nice basket of ornamentals:

It's been more than five years now that an Indian "Mystery Chile" was making headlines, and claims for such a "new" variety were published in print, and all over the Internet. With almost one million Scoville Units, it was supposed to be several times hotter than the Red SavinaTM, the current holder of that title in the Guinness World Records. Time and again the hot pod popped up in the news, yet no one in the Western world had seen it. That has changed recently, as new claims for such a potent pepper came from the UK, and also from the renowned Chile Pepper Institute of the New Mexico State University.  Read the entire story, by Harald Zoschke, here.

CPI Demo Garden

Posted by: Dave DeWitt

Here is a partial view of the 2008 Chile Pepper Institute Demonstration Garden at NMSU in Las Cruces.  Every year, CPI plants 150-200 varieties of chiles to  educate visiting students, children, and  scientists. The Institute also sells seed of many of these varieties, including the super-hot 'Bhut Jolokia' at one million Scoville Heat Units.  Visit CPI here.

New NuMex Varieties from NMSU

Posted by: Dave DeWitt

Dr. Paul Bosland of the Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences at NMSU and director of the Chile Pepper Institute, has announced the release of two new chile pepper cultivars, 'NuMex 6-4 Heritage' and 'NuMex Big Jim Heritage'.  The project was the result of observations from farmers that these two varieties were losing flavor and yield.  Beginning with seeds from the original '6-4' and 'Big Jim' varieties that had been in cryrogenic storage for more that 40 years, Paul grew out the old seeds and selected the best pods for the following year's planting.  This went on for 10 years! Finally, this year, a large field was planted that will result in seeds for farmers for next year's crop.  They will be available for farmers in January, 2009 and for home gardeners from the Chile Pepper Institute.  The research and work NMSU resulted in numerous improvements that include 20 percent more flavor compounds than the old Big Jim and 6-4 varieties, and will produce a better yield for farmers.  Pictured above is a basket of 'NuMex 6-4 Heritage'. Incidentally, in September, 2009 Timber Press will publish Paul's and my new book, The Complete Chile Pepper Book, with 240 color photos, many by our European editor, Harald Zoschke.

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