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It’s a special time of year here in the Mesilla Valley. School has started and soon the NMSU and high school football teams will be playing their state and local rivals. The days are getting a bit shorter and the nights and early mornings are brisk and cool.

harvest

 

One thing though that sets this time apart from any other season is what’s going on in the fields surrounding La Posta de Mesilla. Green Chile is being harvested!

It’s hard to explain just how special a time of year it is for us when the green chile starts rolling into the processing plants. In Dona Ana County alone we farm over 2,100 acres of green chile and then harvest almost 9,000 tons! So needless to say there is a palpable excitement throughout just about every community in New Mexico, from Las Cruces to Albuquerque and beyond.

So when did all this madness start anyway, and what’s the big deal?

Well the history goes back to approximately 1930 when some farmers in Hatch, New Mexico planted what’s thought to be the first crop of green chiles in the state.

That’s not to say it wasn’t grown locally before, it certainly was, but when other farmers saw the potential to sell green chile, they started planting acres of it as well. And so up and down the Mesilla Valley, and then throughout the state, green chile crops were planted, harvested, roasted and eaten!

chile-in-the-field

But for us here at La Posta, we think the local chile is the best! There’s just something about the soil here. Something about the Rio Grande river. Whatever it might be, the valley – from north of Hatch then south to just above the Texas border—makes a great place to grow New Mexico’s famous plant.

Green Chile was regionally popular from the moment it was planted until it started seeing a much wider use in the 1980s and 1990s. This is due to the growing popularity of Latin cuisine throughout the country. Before this rise in popularity other uses for the crop made it a valuable commodity as well. Did you know that the oil from green chile can be used in lipstick? It was also dried and then turned into a powdered spice locally by the Biad family.

But it seems like the explosion in the “foodie” culture is really what drove the popularity of the green chile in the 2000s. Celebrity chefs noted its use in their dishes and talked up all the good in the New Mexico green chile – from its taste and texture to its aroma while roasting.

And so now, Green Chile Harvest Season is more of a special event than most other types of harvests. After all you don’t hear anyone making a fuss about potato harvests, do you?

You can see what happens in Las Cruces and throughout the United States when Green Chile harvest is in full swing. Grocery stores create huge displays where they stack boxes and boxes of chile. Big signs note that this is NEW MEXICO or maybe HATCH chile. Huge, propane-powered roasters show up outside of these stores and the sound of roasting can be heard while the smell of the roasting chile wafts through the air. Suddenly, everyone on Facebook is sharing their favorite Green Chile recipe. There’s even the Hatch Chile Festival – a carnival-like fiesta with games, rides, dances and even a chile queen that started back in 1971–all to celebrate the bountiful harvest of green chile.

roaster

At La Posta we’ve been using local green chile since we opened back in 1939. We source from growers in the Hatch and Mesilla Valley. We choose big, plump green chiles with a lot of meat – usually medium hot or sometimes hot. We use it in our salsa, our enchiladas, and of course our rellenos. We top our hamburgers with it and even use it in our margaritas!

We hope you enjoy New Mexico Green Chile season and are able to pick up a box or two to roast and freeze for the coming year. If you happen to come by our restaurant be sure to try one of our delicious rellenos, but if you can’t then you can make them yourself with our recipe.

Adios!