Hatch Chiles are here!!!

Chilli peppersImage via Wikipedia

Well it’s that time again, Hatch Chile Season! If you know nothing about Hatch Chiles, you might think, “What is the big deal?” For those of us that have experienced Hatch chiles, it is a much awaited time.

The Hatch Chile festival is scheduled for Labor Day weekend. There are many events, a parade, the crowning of the Chile Pepper Queen and roasting of the chiles using gas powered roasters, either hand cranked or motorized.

Hatch is known as the Chile Capital of the world. The village of Hatch is located in the Rio Grande Valley. The high desert climate, low humidity and rich soil make it an ideal location for growing chiles. The green chile harvest has started and continues until the red chile harvest or until the first frost of the year.. The chiles are grown on family farms, not commercially and interest in Hatch Chiles has grown through word of mouth, not through marketing campaigns.

Location, soil, the long growing season and altitude in Hatch, New Mexico account for the quality and unique and much sought after taste of Hatch Chiles. The village only encompasses 3.1 square miles with just under 1700 people. The people of the area make a modest living. The 2000 census showed the median income for a family was $23,819.

Hatch chile refers to varieties of chile grown in the area. There are a number of chile varieties ranging from Mild to Extra Hot. Big Jim, a popular variety is considered mild to medium but there are many variations of heat within the heat range. Hatch chiles are those that are grown in the town of Hatch. During the Green chile season Mexican chiles are often marketed as Hatch chiles, so it is important to choose a reputable organization that sells authentic, Hatch grown chiles.Whole Foods and Central Market in Texas carry Hatch Chiles during the season. I believe they are reputable sources of the real item.

Capsaisin is what makes the chiles hot. It is found around the stem, membrane and seeds, the most potent heat is in the membrane. Water will not quell the heat from a chile. Yogurt and Milk are the best heat neutralizers, so if you are unsure of your reaction, keep some around.

Interesting to note, Capsaisin is found in many pain relieving products. There is evidence that capsaisin can deplete Substance P in sensory nerve terminals. Substance P is associated with initiation and transmission of painful stimuli. Studies have shown a benefit to those with Diabetes Neuropathy, Arthritis, Psoriasis and other conditions.

Chiles have excellent nutritional value with loads of B Vitamins, Vitamin C, Calcium, Potassium and Vitamin A. The chiles are best used roasted and peeled. You can either buy them this way or roast and peel them yourself. If choose to do it yourself, remember to wear gloves and “DO NOT”…and I mean “DO NOT” rub your eyes!!! Now that’s a hot tamale!

I can think of a million uses for roasted green chiles. I just love them. Add them to a grilled cheese sandwich. Include them in your homemade guacamole. Add some chopped green chiles to your mayonnaise with a squeeze of lime juice and use on sandwiches (chicken or veggie sandwiches are good choices). Make a green chile sauce to go over breakfast burritos. A grilled cheeseburger (meat or veggie) can be topped with some strips of roasted peeled Hatch chiles. Green chile pesto has many uses, over pasta, on crackers or used as a topping for burgers. Central Market makes some wonderful pesto. I have included their recipe if you aren’t in a place where you can visit the store.

Of course there are some traditional uses, Green Chile Stew with Pork (or the non-traditional Vegetarian Green Chile Stew with Tempeh) Green Chile Cornbread and Green Chile Enchiladas.

I hope you will check out the stores in your area and try a few dishes with the Hatch Chiles. If you can’t find a store that carrys them, you can order the Chiles on line. Usually you have to buy them in bulk but I found a supplier that offers them in smaller 5lb packages. They will roast and freeze them for you too. That way you can use them year round http://www.newmexicocatalog.com/html/fresh_green_chile.html .

Hatch Chile Pesto
recipe courtesy of Central Market in Dallas:

Six mild to hot Hatch chiles, or a combination to suit your taste
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup packed fresh cilantro leaves
2 large garlic cloves
1/4 cup roasted chopped pecans
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (or more to taste; I use a whole lime)
1 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
1/2 cup olive oil

Roast the chiles first, and de-vein and de-seed them. Combine the chiles and the cheese, cilantro, garlic, pecans, lime juice and salt in a food processor until everything is finely chopped. Add the olive oil slowly until all the ingredients become a smooth paste. At this point you can use it right away or you can freeze it for later use.

Hatch Guacamole
The bacon makes this guacamole unique. I suggest you try it if you are a meat eater. You can use pork or turkey bacon.

4 Haas avocados Halved, Seeded and Peeled
Juice of 1 lime
½ tsp ground cumin
5 slices of bacon cooked and crumbled (Optional, Vegetarians can substitute either imitation bacon bits or toasted pine nuts)
2 Hatch Chiles Roasted, Peeled, Seeded and Chopped
1 tbl chopped cilantro
Salt to taste (optional)
Blue Corn Chips

Mash avocado with lime juice and cumin. Add bacon or pine nuts, green chiles, cilantro and salt. Mix to combine. Serve with Blue Corn Chips.

Brunch Burritos

1 10 oz Package fresh spinach, washed, stems removed and chopped
½ package mushrooms cleaned and sliced
½ cup chopped onion
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
¾ cup Monterey Jack Cheese, grated
Juice of ½ a lime
1 Tablespoon toasted Pinion (pine) nuts
4 medium flour tortillas (lowfat, lard free preferred)
1 Cup Homemade "Green Chile Sauce" (http://www.recipezaar.com/Chuys-Hatch-New-Mexican-Green-Chile-Sauce-40666 Vegetarians will have to use substitutions) or Hatch Green Chile Enchilada Sauce (available in some groceries and at Whole Foods market)

Sauté’ onion and mushrooms in the oil until onion is translucent. Add the fresh spinach and cook until it is just wilted. Add the pinion nuts and lime juice.
Divide mixture among the flour tortillas and fill them. Top with ½ a cup of the Jack Cheese divided. Roll the tortillas then wrap each in aluminum foil. At this point you can put them in a crock pot set on warm until ready to serve your guests.
Heat Green Chile sauce and when ready to serve pass out the Burritos and top with Chile Sauce and extra Jack cheese. A Mango Margarita would pair well with this.

4 servings

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