Chile Cook Off in New Mexico & NM Cuisine Options
Chile & New Mexican Cuisine
Red or Green?If this is your first visit to New Mexico, you may be wondering why the waiters keep asking you the same question: red or green? In case you haven’t figured it out by now, your friendly New Mexican server isn’t asking you about your preferred holiday color palate. No, he’s asking you which color chile (not chili) you’d like atop your burrito or relleno. In fact, "Red or Green?" is actually New Mexico's state question!
Chile is much more than just a condiment in New Mexico; it’s virtually its own food group. Hatch green chiles, growing only in the town of Hatch, New Mexico, are renowned. Hatch, and other varieties of New Mexican chiles, are, in fact, the defining ingredient in New Mexican cuisine. Chimayo, New Mexico, is renowned for the distinctive heirloom Chimayo chile with a robust earthy flavor.
Here you’ll find chile added to just about anything and everything from pizza and beer (yes, green chile beer), to cheeseburgers and chocolate. In the fall, when the smell of roasting chile floats through the air throughout the state, you'll find an incredible number of festivals, fiestas and cook-offs dedicated to this humble capsicum. The level of heat varies widely between different strains of pepper, the time of year, even the crop from which it came. Even if you don’t enjoy spicy foods, you may find a type of chile in New Mexico that you just can’t live without.
Want to learn more? Here are some fun facts from the Chile Pepper Institute, in Las Cruces, NM!
- Chile originated in South America.
- Birds are unable to feel the heat of wild chile in their mouths.
- Chile, tomato, potato and eggplant are related and members of the nightshade family.
- There are 26 species of chile, with 5 species domesticated.
- Christopher Columbus called chile pods "peppers" on his first voyage to the Americas because he thought the spicy plant was related to black pepper.
Chile, Frijole & Bizcochito: new mexico's state vegetables & cookieThe chile is so beloved in New Mexico that in 1965 it was designated a state vegetable. It was argued at the time that chile and frijoles, pinto beans, were inseparable and so both foods were honored as state vegetables. Frijoles have been a staple food in New Mexico since pre-historic times. However, chile was introduced to the area by Spanish colonists.
New Mexico also has a state cookie: The bizcochito. In fact, New Mexico was the first state to designate a state cookie, in 1989. Traditionally, bizcochitos are crisp, lard- or butter-based cookies flavored with cinnamon and anise. Bizcochito recipes originated during the Spanish colonial period but have been adapted over time to reflect new culinary influences as new residents arrived. Bizcochitos are associated with Christmas celebrations but can be enjoyed at any time of year.
There's no shortage of places where you can sample New Mexican cuisine at its finest. Check out these restaurants, food festivals and wineries during your stay.
recipesInspired to create your own delicious New Mexican dishes in your kitchen? Take a class at one of these culinary schools or learn the secrets of the perfect chile relleno, Frito pie and other New Mexican favorites with the recipes on our New Mexico Travel Blog!
New Mexico Farmers MarketsFarmers Markets in New Mexico are places where residents and visitors can find a bounty of fresh produce, breads and dairy products along with soaps, sweets and crafts. Many smaller communities host markets throughout the summer, but major markets can be found in Albuquerque, Las Cruces and Santa Fe.
Shoppers in Albuquerque can visit the Downtown Growers' Market Saturdays Robinson Park on Central Ave and the Rail Yards Market Sundays at the Rail Yards (777 1st St.) during the summer and autumn months. Here, enjoy live music and other activities while you shop. For more details, visit downtowngrowers.com and railyardsmarket.org.
The Farmers' and Crafts Market of Las Cruces is open year-round on Saturdays and Wednesdays on Main Street in downtown Las Cruces. The market is open on select Wednesday evenings during the summer. For more information, see fcmlc.org.
The Santa Fe Farmers Market is open Saturdays at The Railyard year-round, with several other offerings on various days and/or in various locations. This market is more than a place to shop of any need; it also features demos and other special events. See santafefarmersmarket.com for details.
There are several other market times and locations in these three cities and throughout the state. The New Mexico Farmers' Marketing Association maintains a directory of markets across New Mexico. To find the market nearest to you, see farmersmarketsnm.org.
New Mexico foodie triviaLove New Mexican cuisine? Here are a few food fact trivia questions for you!
Which salsa’s name translates to “beak of the rooster” or “Rooster’s beak”?
Where is the oldest wine growing region of the United States?
Which U.S. city is known for making the world’s largest enchilada during the Whole Enchilada Fiesta?
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