This time of year, you can smell the heady aroma of green chile roasting all over Santa Fe. Roasters are set up in parking lots around town and sacks of green chile wait to be put to the flame. There’s no experience more authentically New Mexican than roasting fresh green chiles.
While many of the chiles come from the Hatch Valley, famous for chile production and where most of the chile is grown, famers around state are harvesting green and bringing it to market.
There is no such variety as a Hatch Chile though there are lots of chiles from the Hatch Valley. Any of the varieties of chile grown in that southern New Mexico region such as the Big Jim, Sandia, the hot Barker and extra hot Lumbre can all be legitimately called “Hatch chiles”. There are also Chimayó chiles and Velarde chiles, and Socorro chiles and more. Every area has distinctive soil and growing conditions and these impact the taste and heat. And yes, in a blind taste test, a chile expert can tell you the variety and where it was grown.
We took a ride around town to check out some of the chile roasting operations that have already set up around town. More will arrive in the next week of so.
Our first stop was the parking lot behind Tecolote Café on Cerrillos Road. Tucked away in the back of the lot is a semi bearing the words “Berridge Farms” in big red letters. We found out about them from family member Kelly Urig. The award-winning maker of The Chile Film, told us about memories of chile harvests at the family farm in Garfield, NM in the Hatch Valley. She told us that each year, once the chiles were harvested, her family would be roasting them here. We went expecting a pick-up truck and a roaster or two and found a semi bearing the words’ “Hatch Green Chile in big letters that ran the length of the container and the farm’s name in smaller letters below. They had three propane-powered roasters (two of them double) ready to go. Their semi, carrying about 200 sacks of chile, arrived on Thursday. The plan: to stay through Sunday, but by Saturday morning, it was clear they’d be going home early. We checked on Sunday morning and they were already gone. They’ll be back next weekend and every weekend while the harvest lasts.
We discovered that they, like many other roasters, sell in quantity. They sell by the sack (about 38 pounds) of the half-sack. Most people buy the whole thing and some buy more than one bag. They take them home, peel the charred skin and put them in the freezer. They’ll have a ready supply of roasted green throughout the year. It’s the time of year Steve wishes we had a big freezer.
Los Chile Bros, from Taos are set up at Big Lots further our on Cerrillos Road. The Taos-based Duran family owns land in the Hatch Valley where they’ve been growing chiles for 27 years. Johnnie Duran runs the farm while his sons man the roasters at the seasonal stand that’s open daily until the end of the harvest. When they need to restock, they meet in Socorro, about half-way for both.
Octavio has been roasting in front of Jackalope on Cerrillos Road since 2009. He doesn’t grow his own chiles, but always buys them form the same Hatch Valley farm. He meets the farmer at a Socorro truck stop. They’ll sell an entire sack, a half sack or a plastic bag for people with less freezer space.
Matt Romero of Matt Romero Farms in Dixon, NM is the Santa Fe Farmers Market’s resident chile roaster sets up at the north end of the market. His family has been farming the same land for eight generations. We also discovered dried Chimayó red and already roasted green chile from Chencho’s Chimayó Chile in Chimayó, a town prized for its chile.
Markets around town such as as La Montanita Coop at the Solana Center, Whole Foods on Cerrillos Road as well as both Sprouts locations have roasters set up and sell smaller quantities of chile packed in containers.
If you want to stock up on chile, this is the perfect time. If you live out of town and can’t get to the source, many growers ship. Bueno Foods in Albuquerque has a large operation that freezes green chile and wholesales it to markets around New Mexico and the southwest. It’s a reliable year round source. No matter what time of year it is, when you want that green fix, it’s a freezer or phone call away. But, the best are the fresh roasted green chiles bought right out of the roaster. Just follow the aroma green chile roasting that perfumes the Santa Fe air.
The chile roasting video is from Bill Jackson from at Hot in Santa Fe.