Why We Love Green Chile

The season is well underway now in Santa Fe, as restaurants from the Plaza to the Southside and points beyond offer creative dishes that feature our famous green chile in sauces and stews, as well as enchiladas and burritos, cornbread and tamales, green chile mac'n'cheese, the celebrated green chile cheeseburger, and even atop pizza. And if you're like most New Mexicans, you're already making your own green chile fare at home, including my personal favorite—green chile apple pie.

New Mexico's chile craze has spread way beyond the boundaries of our state. Last year, it was possible to buy roasted Hatch green chile at more than 40 venues across southern California—from Santa Barbara to San Diego and all points in between. This fall, if you happen to be in Flemington, N.J., you can buy our agricultural treasure at the local ShopRite, which hosts its first ever “Hatch Chili Pepper Roasting Festival.” And other states are making sure their residents have a chance to buy freshly roasted green chile from New Mexico, too

Why is New Mexico's green chile so revered? It goes well beyond the sweetness of the flavor and the intensity of the heat. It has something to do with the growing conditions in the Hatch Valley of southern New Mexico, where the green chile pepper was cultivated at New Mexico State University. Arguably the chile capital of the world, Hatch provides the perfect chile storm, a combination of hot days, cool nights and high elevation—coupled with fertile volcanic soil – creating the ultimate chile-growing conditions. This chile has become so popular that it's now imperative to check the labels of chile that you purchase to make sure it reads “Hatch,” because so many vendors are misrepresenting the chile they sell from Mexico and Texas as the real deal.

Apart from its unique taste, green chile is also incredibly good for you. Low in fat and calories, a single green chile contains as much vitamin C as six orangesand helps boost your cardiovascular and immune systems. The capsaicin, which is stored in the veins and seeds, not only provides the heat, but also helps dissolve blood clots and improves digestion. Capsaicin increases metabolism, burning calories and reducing your appetite as well as boosting your mood by releasing endorphins. And it can improve your circulation by lowering your blood pressure and helping to control your heart rate. Capsaicin also can relieve arthritis and sore muscles.

The fruit pod of the nightshade family, related to eggplant, tomatoes and tobacco, chile is native to Central America, where it was a spicy ingredient used in Mexican cuisine for several thousand years. Spanish and Portuguese explorers introduced the fruit to Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries and Pueblo Indians used it as an herbal medicine, a wound disinfectant and a food preservative.

Here are a two unique and wonderful recipes—not your typical green chile fare but delicious nonetheless—provided by the Blue Corn Cafe & Brewery's  Executive Chef ef David Sundberg, who is passionate about using locally grown, seasonal foods and James Beard award-winning Chef Mark Kiffin of The Compound.