07 September 2011

The Creative Exchange: Chile Season

Chile pequin ristras at the Hatch Chile Festival, Hatch, NM, Sept. 2011
Farmers roasting green chiles; red chile ristras drying. Hatch, NM, Sept. 2011
Time for the Creative Exchange; my theme this week is harvest season. Here in New Mexico I find the chile harvest especially enchanting because of the sight, smell, and taste of the various chiles grown here. New Mexico green chiles have a flavor unlike any other pepper; the mild ones are sweetly aromatic, and the hot varieties have a sharp heat tempered by that same aromatic flavor I've never tasted in any other pepper. Once the harvest begins in late August, vendors set up roasters like the one shown at right to blister the skins and give the chiles a smokey-sweet flavor. The scent is out of this world, and whether you thought you were going to buy some or not suddenly you find yourself craving them. Some chiles are left on the plants to ripen, then dried (in Hatch we saw roofs covered in chiles -- what a great idea) and woven into traditional ristras to be hung in the kitchen for easy reach when making red chile sauce, posole, and other dishes.

The Hatch Chile Festival draws people from all over to southern New Mexico to try the various chiles in salsas, relishes, sauces, and, my new favorite, hand-cranked ice cream with green chile. It's definitely the best place to buy ristras both for quality and for price; I only bought two of the multicolor pequin ristras shown above, but of course now I wish I'd bought some of every kind and color. Vendors sell lots of other goods too, including cookbooks (I've been wanting one with lots of green and red chile recipes, including chile jelly for canning), knick-knacks, fine art, jewelry, and chile-themed accessories. I really wanted a pair of the chile sunglasses this girl was wearing, but she had the last pair, so I asked if I could take her picture instead and she happily agreed -- her mom offered to sell me that last pair but I couldn't take them from this sweet kid! All in all it was a fun day, even if chile harvest does mean summer is almost over.


Nadege, said...

Very colorful image. The smell of those chilies drying must be amazing.

SummersStudio said...

Oh, I do agree. Those NM chiles are the best in the world. Someone I knew there told me that his father had seeds that he brought from Mexico. Saves them every year to plant the next crop. I like that tradition.

lisa said...

This looks like such a wonderful festival Anna, and I have never seen so many peppers in one place!! Your photographs are wonderful, and I thank you so much for sharing them at The Creative Exchange.

Sending you wishes for a beautiful day!


Pat said...

Looks like a colorful, fun-filled festival!

Three Little Piggies said...

Wonderful photos!!!
I have never seen anything like this before!
Love (P)

Lesley said...

These are wonderful images, so interesting. My sister in law lives in New Mexico - she's told me about this and once packaged up a ristra and posted it to me!

Tracy Statler said...

I absolutely fell in love the bunches of chiles hanging everywhere in Santa Fe and Taos when we visited this past July. I brought some small bunches home and have them hanging in my kitchen to remind me of how beautiful new Mexico was. Your pictures are great!

Lori's Glassworks said...

The chili pepper photo is wonderful. Such vibrant colors! Cheers!