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Exploring the World of Spice and Smoke
Tags >> preserving chiles
Chile SeedsSeveral varieties of chile pepper seeds, including 'Wenk's Yellow Hots', 'Pico de Gallo', and the "unpredictably hot" 'San Juan Tsiles' have arrived at the so-called "doomsday vault" at the Svalbard Global Seed Vault located on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen near the town of Longyearbyen in the remote Arctic.  Svalbard has what scientists describe as the most diverse repository of crop seeds and is a safeguard against war, natural disasters, or diseases that could wipe out food crops.  More likely, it will be frequently accessed when genebanks lose samples due to mismanagement, accident, equipment failures, or funding cuts.  The seeds are stored in four-ply sealed envelopes, then placed into plastic tote containers on metal shelving racks. The storage rooms are kept at −18 degrees C. (-0.4 F).  The low temperature and limited access to oxygen will ensure low metabolic activity and delay seed aging.  The permafrost surrounding the facility will help maintain the low temperature of the seeds if the electricity supply should fail.

Diagram of Svalbard Global Seed Vault

Here's an excerpt from my new book with Dr. Paul Bosland, The Complete Chile Pepper Book. The book is hardcover, 336 pages, 250 full-color photos, 85 recipes (with food shots).  Is is organized like this:
--About Chiles
--Top 100 (or so) Chiles for the Garden
--Capsicum Cultivation
--Processing and Preservation
--Cooking with Chiles

If you want a signed copy, buy the book here then send me a stamped, self-addressed envelope along with your name and dedication, and I will sign a faceplate for you that you can stick into the front of the book.
Dave DeWitt
P.O. Box 4980
Albuquerque, NM 87196


It's one of my favorite times of the year--the green chile harvest in New Mexico, with some fresh red chiles thrown in for good measure.  Many of us go to our favorite roadside stand--or supermarket for that matter, and buy a bushel or two of the fresh pods, have them roasted there in the cylindrical metal mesh roasters, and then take them home, peel them, remove the seeds and freeze the chile for later use.

That's all well and good for us lucky ones who live in New Mexico.  But what about the rest of the world that yearns for the good green stuff?  Well, thanks to modern technology, there are two simple solutions.  The first is to buy the pods roasted, peeled, and frozen.  A new source, which carries the 'NuMex 6-4 Heritage' and 'NuMex Big Jim Heritage' is the Biad Chili Company, here.

Another handy source is El Pinto, which sells jarred flame-roasted green chile.  I've eaten and cooked with this product dozens of times and it's simply great.  Order it here.

I've already reported on the good green chile crop from the southern part of the state--coming two weeks earlier than usual.  That's the result of perfect weather--hot and dry--and just enough irrigation.  In fact, it's being called "ideal conditions."  But that doesn't mean that the chile will be cheaper.  Expect a slight price increase, although many vendors have vowed to keep the prices the same as last year.  Here in Albuquerque, the roasting has begun and the wonderful harvest aroma is spreading over the city.  Pat Romero, who owns The Fruit Basket in the North Valley said; "As far as flavor, as far as heat, it's a lot better than last year."  Some chile aficionados who roast their own on their gas grills throw roasting parties where they feast on freshly roasted chiles as if they were a snack food.  It is rumored that beer is often consumed--just to initially soothe the mouth, I hear.

New Mexico's State Vegetable is not a vegetable, of course.  Botanically it's a berry, and horticulturally it's a fruit.  It's often served with co-State Vegetable, pinto beans.  They're not a vegetable either, but rather a legume.  What were those state legislators thinking about when they passed those bills?  The real state vegetable is the number one farm crop--alfalfa.  But that's for cows and horses!

You'd think, after three decades of writing about chiles, that I would know every chile condiment in the world.  Not so.  Nick Vroman writes from Tokyo about koregusu, hot Korean chile peppers soaked in awamori (the favorite firewater from Okinawa) used to enhance delectable island favorites.  Nick writes:  "The label on this one says shima togarashi, or 'island pepper,' another way to refer to it.  I've seen many a homemade infusion, though, at bars and restaurants. Its main use is with Okinawan soba (noodles in a pork-based broth). The alcohol cuts through the heavy porky-ness and the spice gives depth and heat to the experience. It's a wonderful condiment."  Nick is working on an article about koregusu for the SuperSite.

New technological advances in roasting and peeling New Mexico green chile have created InstantChile Futuro, which is much tastier than the canned green chile you find in supermarkets. Go here to read the entire story, plus recipes. 

Here's a unique way to preserve pods from the garden.  Harald Zoschke, our European editor, notes:  "Candying is one of the most ancient forms of preserving the harvest--the ancient Egyptians preserved nuts and fruits with honey. Like spices, candied fruit like wild oranges, melons and apricots, were brought to Europe by traders from the Middle East and China in the Early Middle Ages. Until sugar was introduced during the Crusades, honey and palm syrup were used, later replaced mostly by sugar-based syrup. The technique is the same, though--by placing fruit in syrup with gradually increased sugar content, their cell liquid is getting replaced by sugar."  Read the entire story and learn how to candy chile pods, here.

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