Green chile season began a little late this year, but that hasn’t stopped local growers and roasters.
Jimmy Perea of Perea Farms has been roasting chile for 45 years.
“We originally started off of El Cerro Road, where the original house was at and then we moved out here almost twenty years ago,” Perea said.
Perea works with his sister Victoria Valladarez and nephew Wilfred Nieto.
“We work with the community very well,” Perea said. “We all support each other. The propane people next to us, the Ortegas, they’re a big help in getting us our propane. We work with the store to get us boxes for our produce. So we all work together.”
Perea said his family wants to keep the business small with minimal technology to keep it feeling like a mom and pop shop. He said some women will even visit with his sister and trade recipes.
Ray Feldbusch of Ray Rae’s Barbershop in Belen is on his third year of roasting his own chile.
“We do it all organically with plastic and a drip line. Our chile peels really easily and everyone tells me it has an original flavor,” Feldbusch said.
He said he got his start in growing chile because of land he had purchased in Jarales. He originally intended to build a house there, but until he can afford it he decided to farm on the land and settled on chile.
“It’s changed my life. I’m always cooped up inside cutting hair, so now I go out there where there’s nobody and just work,” he said.
Feldbusch doesn’t use any kind of chemicals on the chile he grows, just water.
“We actually pick it fresh every day, then peel and process it right next to the shop, so we’ll peel it and bag it for customers and sell if frozen all year in little tubs.”
Sixth generation farmer Steven Sichler of Snake Ranch Farm Stores said the best time to get the chile is in September.
“That’s when it’s really meaty and the pods are heavier. You might actually end up getting more pounds of chile in your sack, so it sort of is better if you like more green in your chile. If you want more red in your chile come later in September,” Sichler said.
This is the second year that John Emery has been coming to Snake Ranch when he visits from out of state. Emery grew up in New Mexico and moved away for a job, but tries to come back every year to pick up green chile.
“We try to plan our trips during the chile season,” Emery said. “We like to get the chile later. My favorite meal with green chile is green chile stew.”
Belen native Annie Lopez has been coming to Snake Ranch since it opened on Vallejos Road.
“This is the only place I get my chile. I love putting it on eggs and pinto beans. I come to get my chile earlier because I like it when it’s still all green,” Lopez said.
She typically brings home eight sacks of chile for her family, and sends some to her son in Arizona.
“That’s how I get my son to come down here,” Lopez said with a chuckle. “I know when he’s running low because he’ll make a trip down here because he can’t live without his chile.”