WHAT'S IN A NAME?
"Hatch" vs. "New Mexico"
vs. "Anaheim" (Chile, that is)
Can you tell which these are?
There seems to be confusion sometimes about the difference between these
names for chile.
Here's the scoop as we know it:
of chile pepper varieties were grown in New Mexico by the ancient
Native American Puebloan peoples. In fact their descendents in modern-day
pueblos like Acoma,Isleta, and Zia still raise peppers from seeds
passed down for generations. Over the years the cultivation of chile
spread to other parts of New Mexico, especially along the Rio Grande
river valley. So the term "New Mexico Chile" might describe peppers
from a number of localities, like Chimayo in northern New Mexico, famous
for its heirloom chile, or down south in Hatch, probably the
best-publicized source of New Mexico Chile. Of course, chile is grown in
other parts of New Mexico, but without the name recognition of those
two. (In fact, the above photo was made almost 20 years ago of some
nice chiles we picked in Portales, NM at the farm of a family friend.
Turns out the peppers were actually Big Jims, grown from seeds of that
variety which is very popular in the Hatch area. "Hatch Chile"
normally refers to varieties actually grown in the Hatch Valley region
along the Rio Grande, which includes the village of Hatch with its
famous annual Chile Festival. Several popular varieties of chile are
cultivated there - Big Jim, Joe Parker, Sandia, and others ; so the
"Hatch" label is not a specific variety of pepper, but more a geographic
designation. Local chile lovers do believe however that the combination of
soil, water, and climate in the region produce peppers with a
Also, among the varieties of Hatch chile there
are distinct differences in size and level of heat, or spiciness.
Most of the chile varieties grown in the region today were developed at
New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, with pioneering research begun
by horticulturist Dr. Fabian Garcia over 100 years ago, and continuing
today at The Chile Pepper Institute at NMSU.To further complicate the
picture, many of the chile varieties developed and grown in the Hatch
region have been adopted by pepper farmers all around the Southwest. If
you see "Hatch Chile" being sold anywhere except actually in the
village of Hatch, then it might have been grown in Texas, Arizona, or
even Mexico, and in fact, it may not have the slightest connection to
Hatch, as enterprising marketers know that the Hatch name sells more
peppers, whether in New Mexico or New Jersey. For those of us who are
somewhat "chile snobs", we only believe we're getting genuine Hatch
chile if we got our peppers in Hatch, or can otherwise feel assured
we're getting peppers grown there.
A Trip to Anaheim...In 1894 a
farmer named Emilio Ortega introduced New Mexico chile seeds to Southern
California, where they thrived and became known as "Anaheim Chile",
probably the most commonly available peppers in the country outside of
New Mexico. You'll see Anaheim peppers in supermarkets nearly everywhere
fresh chile is sold, even after the New Mexico chile season is over. Our
personal experience with Anaheim peppers is that they are generally
milder in flavor and lacking the heat of their New Mexico ancestors,
which makes them more palatable to a certain range of consumers who
object to spicy foods.