Out-of-state students at New Mexico State University (NMSU) quickly find out that in the dining halls, “anything you can get here, you can get it with green chile or red chile,” says Ophelia Watkins, interim executive director of housing and residential life with Sodexo at NMSU.
Watkins, a native New Mexican born in Los Cruces, is referring to New Mexico’s claim to fame/statewide obsession: The Hatch chile pepper. Cultivation of this famous chile began in the early 1600s, when Spanish colonists, having been introduced to chiles in the Caribbean—brought seeds to the Southwest, long before this land was the U.S.
Lots of chiles were planted, and over the centuries, one rose above the rest in what became the state of New Mexico. Ranging in heat from mild to medium, the oblong peppers thrived despite their need for lots of water, thanks to efforts at NMSU. Through years of study and trial and error at NMSU in the 1900s, a horticulturist named Fabian Garcia developed the chile into a plant that grows great in the climate and has won the hearts (and taste buds) of New Mexico.
“Everyone has a favorite—red or green,” Watkins says. (Her favorite is red). Read on to see chile-centric dishes from Executive Chef Clinton Kifolo and NMSU’s dining team and consider which your favorite might be.
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