Varieties & History
Green Chile is an important icon of New Mexico’s heritage. It is one of the states largest and most valuable crops; each year millions of tourists come to NM solely to experience the incredible taste of Green Chile!
According to the Chile Institute of New Mexico, there are various stories of how chile peppers came to New Mexico. The most widely accepted theory is Juan De Onate, the founder of Santa Fe, NM, introduced the chile pepper to the United States in the early 1600s. After the Spanish began to settle in New Mexico, the cultivation of chile peppers exploded. Today, many of the chile peppers grown thousands of years ago continue to be grown by small, family oriented farms throughout New Mexico.
The varieties of Peppers are as diverse and numerous as the cultures of New Mexico: the best known varieties include jalapenos, bell peppers, serranos, and green chile. In the late 1800’s a horticulturist, Fabian Garcia, from New Mexico State University worked to develop types of chile peppers with uniformity and consistency in pod size and heat levels.
Today New Mexico boasts of many varieties grown within the state’ the most popular being Big Jim and Joe Parker. The varieties differ in color depending upon maturity, ranging from a light green, to a deep green, to a bright red. Along with the variance of color, chiles also vary in heat units. Capsaicinoids are the chemicals in a chile pepper that create the heat. A chile pepper’s heat is measured in Scoville Heat Units, which measures the capsaicin content of the individual varieties. The hottest pepper, the Habanero would rank at the top of the scale; a mild green chile New Mexico 6, also called the Anaheim, would be at the bottom. Joe Parker and New Mexico 6-4, a mild to medium chile, would rank just below the Big Jim and the Jalapeno.
Scoville Units can vary greatly due to environment, watering conditions and location of farmland.
Green Chile is, and has been for many years, a dependable ingredient in Southwestern cuisine, so now the only question remaining is RED or GREEN?