Scenic USA - New Mexico

The Chile Trail

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The Chile Trail - Hatch, New Mexico

Photos by Ben Prepelka

     Chiles provide the zip in today's popular trend toward hot and spicy foods. But the Hatch chile pepper is much more than just heat, it's those rich chile flavors that enhance New Mexico's ethnic dishes. Late in the summer green chiles are ripening and changing to a rich, deep red color. During this time of year vistors may see colorful hanging ristras, strings of green and red chiles. Chile Ristras - New Mexico Although a ristra can be various dried foods, in New Mexico when someone talks about a ristra, they're referring to the strings of red chiles found hanging as decoration on many New Mexican adobe homes. During the drying process, the flavor is also changing, becoming sweet and mellow. The red ripe chiles offer a completely different taste from the green.
     The Chile Trail in southern New Mexico, found in an area along Interstate 10, passes through the counties of Hidalgo, Luna and Dona Ana. These three counties make up the state's largest region of chile growers. Chile production in Hatch Valley has since evolved from the first immigrant farmer, Joe Franzoy in 1915. Here, between the Mimbres Mountains to the west and the eastern San Andres Mountains, the Hatch Valley has all the elements for growing perfect chilies. Its high elevation, rich volcanic soils, hot days and cool nights create one of New Mexico's most famous natural wonders.
     Anyone lingering in Hatch, just north of Las Cruces, will soon discover the rich heritage behind the Hatch chile. And while enjoying the Hatch Chile Festival, visitors begin to understand the village's title, Chile Capital of the World.

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