It’s New Mexico chile harvest season again!

The New Mexico chile harvest is a little early this year, but the green chilies and roasters are showing up in front of every grocery store and on some street corners around town.  Chile is purchased in 20 or 30 pound sacks, and they’ll roast it right there for you.  They use a large wire barrel driven by a motor and flame it with a propane burner until the skin is blistered evenly.  Then you get to take it home, peel it and either use it or freeze it in batches.  We buy ours already frozen.  It’s hot work for the roasters, but the aroma is out of this world!

In Texas, chile is that tomato-y stew stuff with meat and maybe beans.  For us, that’s “chili con carne.”  In New Mexico, it’s all about the peppers–chile is the vegetable, pure and simple.

The heat in chile can vary, and it really has nothing to do with whether it’s red or green, but about the degree of heat in the pepper itself.  It depends on a lot of things–cool weather in the early summer, too much water, soil conditions, and location of the chile patch. 

Wikipedia has some information about the heat index for chilies:

“The Scoville scale measures the hotness or piquancy of a chile pepper, as defined by the amount of capsaicin it contains. Capsaicin is a chemical compound which stimulates chemoreceptor nerve endings in the skin, especially the mucous membranes. The number of Scoville heat units (SHU) indicates the amount of capsaicin present.

 “The scale is named after its creator, American chemist Wilbur Scoville, who developed a test for rating the pungency of chile peppers. His method, which he devised in 1912, is known as the Scoville Organoleptic Test. An alternative method for quantitative analysis uses high-performance liquid chromatography, making it possible to directly measure capsaicinoid content.

“Some hot sauces use their Scoville rating in advertising as a selling point.  Chile peppers, fruits of the Capsicum genus, contain a great deal of capsaicin.”

Scoville scale?  We don’t need no stinkin’ Scoville scale.  Here’s how you tell how hot the chile is:

  • you get a pleasant warmth at the end of the meal–that’s mild
  • the top of your heat sweats and your face turns pink–that’s medium
  • you lose your breath, get hiccups and can’t talk–now that’s some HOT chile!