What Makes Hatch Chiles Unique?

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Usually, when you encounter the word “terroir,” you’re about to be subjected to a long-winded explanation about how grapes grown in certain soil and climate taste different than grapes grown elsewhere. Turns out, terroir doesn’t just apply to grapes but also chile peppers. In fact, 505 Southwestern says, “The Hatch Valley is truly the Napa Valley of green chile.” Located in New Mexico, the Hatch Valley is an agricultural region that straddles the Rio Grande River from Arrey, New Mexico, in the south to just south of the tiny town of Hatch, New Mexico, in the north. Known for its fertile volcanic soil and its big diurnal temperature swings (meaning hot days and cool nights), Hatch Valley is green chile central.

Hatch chiles are several different chile pepper varieties, all part of the C. annum species and all bred specifically to grow in the Hatch Valley. New Mexico State’s Chile Pepper Institute explains that around the turn of the 20th century, horticulturist Fabian Garcia began working on breeding chile pepper varieties that would suit the New Mexican growing conditions. His first commercial cultivar that took off was New Mexico No. 9, and this 1913 variety provided the genetic base for all Hatch chiles (per Chili Pepper Madness). Hatch chiles comprise several varieties: NuMex Big Jim (the Guinness world record holder for biggest chile pepper at 13.5 inches long), NuMex Sandia, and NuMex Joe E. Parker.

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