The "I"s Do Not Have It
New Mexico's favorite food item is spelled c-h-i-l-E and in 1983, Senator Pete Dominici made it official by putting it in Congressional Record. He rose and addresses the United States Senate, declaring that even though the word was chili in the dictionary , New Mexicans refuse to spell it the way the rest of America does, and so, he said, he stood before the full Senate and with the backing of my New Mexican Constituents state unequivocally that the dictionary is wrong. Then, after extolling the virtues of New Mexico chile, he told his colleagues, Hospitable as we are to all visitors, we have chile that is mild enough to make a baby coo in delight, or hot enough to make even the strongest constitutions perspire in a sensual experience of both pleasure and pain. He ended by saying, I could go on and on about the wonders of red and green chile, but in reality, all I wanted to do was inform Congress on the correct way to spell the word.
The Chile Capitol of the United States
Hatch, New Mexico is located 37 miles north of Las Cruces via I-25. The northern most incorporated community in Doña Ana County, the Village of Hatch is home to some 1,673 residents, many of whom work in the fertile fields f of the surrounding Hatch Valley. The area produces the world famous Hatch Chile and is home to the annual Hatch Chile Festival, which draws thousands to the village. Hatch is located just west of the banks of the Rio Grande.
In the Hatch Valley, the green chile harvest begins around July 25 and continues through the red chile harvest or up through the first frost of the year.
Nutritional Facts About Chile
The New Mexico State University and it's Chile Pepper Institute has this to say regarding the the nutritional and vitamin value of CHILE.
Importance: Builds and maintains bones and teeth; regulates heart rhythm; eases insomnia; helps regulate the passage of nutrients in & out of the cell walls; assists in normal blood clotting; helps maintain proper nerve and muscle function; lowers blood pressure; important to normal kidney function and in current medical research reduces the incidence of colon cancer, and reduces blood cholesterol levels.
Deficiency Symptoms: May result in arm and leg muscles spasms, softening of bones, back and leg cramps, brittle bones, rickets, poor growth, osteoporosis ( a deterioration of the bones), tooth decay, depression.
Importance: Its major function is to combine with protein and copper in making hemoglobin. Hemoglobin transports oxygen in the blood from the lungs to the tissues which need oxygen to maintain basic life functions. Iron builds up the quality of the blood and increases resistance to stress and disease. It is also necessary for the formation of myoglobin which is found only in muscle tissue. Myoglobin supplies oxygen to muscle cells for use in the chemical reaction that results in muscle contraction. Iron also prevent fatigue and promotes good skin tone.
Deficiency Symptoms: May result in weakness, paleness of skin, constipation, anemia.
Importance: Plays an important role in regulating the neuromuscular activity of the heart; maintains normal heart rhythm; necessary for proper calcium & Vitamin C metabolism; converts blood sugar into energy.
Deficiency Symptoms: May result in calcium depletion, heart spasms nervousness, muscular excitability, confusion; kidney stones.
Importance: Works with calcium to build strong bones and teeth. Helps in metabolism.
Importance: Works with sodium to regulate the body's waste balance and normalize heart rhythms; aids in clear thinking by sending oxygen to the brain; preserves proper alkalinity of body fluids; stimulates the kidneys to eliminate poisonous body wastes; assists in reducing high blood pressure; promotes healthy skin.
Deficiency Symptoms: May result in poor reflexes, nervous disorders, respiratory failure, cardiac arrest, muscle damage.
Vitamin C is essential in wound healing and in the formation of collagen, a protein important in the formation of healthy skin, tendons, bones, and supportive tissues. Deficiency results in defective collagen formation and is marked by joint pains, irritability, growth retardation, anemia, shortness of breath, and increased susceptibility to infection.
Vitamin A has a direct role in vision and is a component of a pigment present in the retina of the eye. It is essential for the proper functioning of most body organs and also affects the functioning of the immune system.
Riboflavin or Vitamin B2 is required to complete several reactions in the energy cycle. Reddening of the lips with cracks at the corners of the mouth, inflammation of the tongue, and a greasy, scaly inflammation of the skin are common symptoms of deficiency.
Niacin or nicotinic acid helps the metabolism of carbohydrates. Prolonged deprivation leads to pellagra, a disease characterized by skin lesions, gastrointestinal disturbance, and nervous symptoms.
Vitamin B6 is a coenzyme for several enzyme systems involved in the metabolism of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. No human disease has been found to be caused by a deficiency of this vitamin. Chronic use of large doses of vitamin B6 can create dependency and cause complications in the peripheral nervous system.
Folate or folic acid is necessary for the synthesis of nucleic acids and the formation of red blood cells. Folic-acid deficiency most commonly causes folic-acid-deficiency anemia. Symptoms include gastrointestinal problems, such as sore tongue, cracks at the corners of the mouth, diarrhea, and ulceration of the stomach and intestines. Large doses of folic acid can cause convulsions and other nervous-system problems.
Tryptophan (Essential Amino Acid) a natural relaxant, helps alleviate insomnia by inducing normal sleep; reduces anxiety & depression; helps in the treatment of migraine headaches; helps the immune system; helps reduce the risk of artery & heart spasms; works with Lysine in reducing cholesterol levels.
Lysine (Essential Amino Acid) insures the adequate absorption of calcium; helps form collagen ( which makes up bone cartilage & connective tissues); aids in the production of antibodies, hormones & enzymes. Recent studies have shown that Lysine may be effective against herpes by improving the balance of nutrients that reduce viral growth. A deficiency may result in tiredness, inability to concentrate, irritability, bloodshot eyes, retarded growth, hair loss, anemia & reproductive problems.
Phenylalaine (Essential Amino Acid) used by the brain to produce Norepinephrine, a chemical that transmits signals between nerve cells and the brain; keeps you awake & alert; reduces hunger pains; functions as an antidepressant and helps improve memory.
This is a reprint from the NMSU Chile Pepper Institute. NMSU's Chile Pepper Institute, the renowned Chile experts.
A Guide to Southern New Mexico Chile
Welcome to Southern New Mexico! You have ventured upon the hottest spot in the U.S.A. I’m not talkin’ solar heat. I’m talkin’ chile fire.
Chile peppers are the Land of Enchanters’ mysterious and highly addictive vegetable that may cause brows to sweat, noses to run, eyes to tear, and alas, guttural hiccups upon overdose. It’s a painfully pleasant experience we welcome many times daily.
Not only do we devour the hot little number but we chile chat ceaselessly. The noble chile plant has played a passionate role in New Mexico’s culture and cuisine since the early 1600s when the Spanish first planted along the fertile Rio Grande valley. Hundreds of years later, the powerfully pungent pod remains dear to New Mexicans. Although chile is now grown worldwide, New Mexicans self-assuredly declare “our pods are peerless.”
When I arrived from native Michigan to this chile kingdom a decade ago, the only pepper with which I was acquainted was the sweet, but no heat, red and green Bell. Little did I know that Bell’s next of kin would offer such savage euphoria. I now use the mojo in just about every dish I prepare. Indeed, as I key in these words, I savor popcorn lavished in red chile powder. (And I don’t go the movies without it.)
I admit, I’m a slave to the chile knight whose colorful armor ranges from yellow to green to red and to black. Some are long, slender and no thicker than a swizzle stick while others are rotund and nearly spherical. They vary in length from 1/2 inch Lilliputian to a 12-inch whopper. Some chiles are spicier, and others are hotter - usually the smaller the chile, the fiercer its bite. A chile’s heat quotient can vary from tepid to tongue blistering hot.
Without dispute, Southern New Mexico offers the best and tastiest chile in the world. Just 30 miles northwest of Las Cruces is the village of Hatch, known as the Chile Capital of World. Hatch cultivates over 30,000 acres of the succulent pod and celebrates the harvest each Labor Day Weekend with a festival that includes chile roasting, chile contests, chile parades, and traditional chile dishes. Year round these savory victuals are listed on menus at many area restaurants. Once you sample these offerings, I think you’ll agree – there’s no place north of the border with better chile eats.
To help you on your culinary excursion and to familiarize you with our chile lingo and lore, I offer the following brief guide.
- Chile or chili? Debates on the correct spelling are heated. Chile is the Spanish adaptation of chili, the Aztec name for the pod. Chili, at least in New Mexico, refers to Texas soup, prepared with diced or ground beef and chili powder (or both).
- Chile powder vs. chili powder. Chile powder spelled with an “e” refers to pure ground, dried chile peppers. Chili powder spelled with an “i” is a powdered seasoning mix of dried chiles, garlic, oregano, cumin, coriander and cloves.
- Red or green sauce? Chile is usually served as a green or red sauce. Its heat level or “bite” can vary from easygoing (1) to fiery hot (10). Before ordering, be sure to ask your waiter which is the “hot of the day.” Red sauce is also known as enchilada sauce since it’s often found in that dish. Compared with green sauce, red sauce has a rich earthy flavor and adds an unusually sweet punch to most dishes.
- Chile painkiller. Dairy products like milk and yogurt – not water – dull the chile bite.
- Red chiles. Green chiles that ripen on the vine turn red. The fresh pods are often “braided” into a ristra (a string of pods) and hung to sun dry. Once dried, they’re either ground or crushed for seasonings and sauces.
- Green chiles. Before green chiles are used in cooking, they’re usually roasted in a wire mesh basket that rotates over a gas flame and then peeled. Green chiles are used in numerous recipes including relishes, sauces, stews and bread.
- Chile rellenos. These are plump green chiles packed with cheese, dipped in cornmeal and then deep-fried.
- Chorizo breakfast burrito. A flour tortilla rolled with scrambled egg bits, chopped onion, cubed potatoes, shredded cheese, red or green chile and chorizo, a spicy sausage.
- Enchilada. Rolled or flat corn tortillas either topped or stuffed with meat, cheese, onion, and smothered in red or green chile sauce.
- Tamales. Red chile pork wrapped in fresh masa (corn dough) and encased in a cornhusk. Tamales are also prepared as a sweet, a holiday tradition in Mexico. Sweet tamales are made with raisins, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, pecans and brown sugar.
- Huevos rancheros (ranch-style eggs). Best breakfast. Fried eggs lavished with green sauce and garnished with tomatoes and onions.
- Chilehead is an experienced chile chomper. The hotter the chile, the better the ‘head’.
- Hotluck. A potluck centered on chile dishes.
- Chile-fix. Chile is addictive. New Mexicans usually require a daily “fix.”
- Chile “flashes” or sweating at the brow may occur after eating a particularly “hot” chile-laced dish. Chile flashes are similar to hot flashes but they’re self-induced and are gender non-specific.
- Capsaisin [kap-SAY-ih-sihn] is what gives chiles their bite (and subsequent addictive qualities). The substance is localized around the stems, inner membranes and seeds.
- Chile Pepper Institute, The. The Institute, located in Las Cruces at New Mexico State University, is an international non-profit organization devoted to education, research and the promotion of chile peppers. The director, Agronomy and Horticulture Professor Paul Bosland, is considered one of the leading chile pepper breeders in the world.
- Hatch Chile Festival. The small village of Hatch, known as the Chile Capital of the World, cultivates over 30,000 acres of the succulent pod.
- Each Labor Day Weekend the town, just 30 miles northwest of Las Cruces, celebrates the chile harvest by hosting a festival that includes chile roasting, chile contests, chile parades, and traditional chile dishes.
- New Mexico State University Chile Teaching and Demonstration Garden. The garden is open daily and showcases more than 250 different varieties of exotic chiles. For more information, call 505-646-3405.
- New Mexico Wine and Chile Festival. Chile contests and chile eats and plenty of New Mexico wine draws thousands of folks to this Memorial Weekend event.
- The Whole Enchilada Fiesta. Held the first weekend in October in downtown Las Cruces, the fiesta features parades, dances, Spanish music concerts and the making of the world’s largest enchilada, which is shared with more than 70,000 fiesta goers.