Fall is close; so close you can almost smell it! The amazing aroma of green chile roasting is the first indicator to any New Mexican the season is about to change.
How fortunate we are to have the aroma drifting through the air and even more fortunate to enjoy the New Mexican cuisine featuring this delicious ingredient, a part of our cultural heritage.
New Mexico is renowned throughout the world for producing chile peppers. Written records document an introduction of chile pepper before the year 1600 but Native American Pueblo and Hispano communities throughout the state have long grown “native chile,” also known as New Mexico landraces.
Landrace is the term for a line of plants that have become adapted to a geographical area following more than 100 years of selection and seed saving (Zeven, 1989). The seed from landrace chiles was passed on from generation to generation, bringing forward genetic traits that allowed for adaptation to the unique growing conditions found in New Mexico.
Some examples of landrace chile include Chimayó, Alcalde, Cochiti Pueblo, Escondida, Isleta Pueblo, Jarales, Jemez Pueblo, Nambe Pueblo, San Felipe Pueblo, Santo Domingo Pueblo, Tesuque Pueblo and Zia Pueblo.
The development and release of New Mexico No. 9 in 1913 from the New Mexico School of Agriculture and Mechanical Arts (now New Mexico State University) introduced a standardized New Mexico-type chile cultivar that provided the foundation for the chile pepper processing industry in New Mexico and the United States.
Other standard types of chile cultivar you may be more familiar with include Big Jim, Sandia, Anaheim and Barkers’s Hot. For generations, families have practiced the tradition of roasting and bagging green chile in the fall to enjoy throughout the year.
We sometimes take our heritage for granted, failing to acknowledge the cornerstone cultural practices and tradition play in our daily life. To honor the rich heritage and cultural history of our Rio Grande Valley, New Mexico State University Cooperative Extension Service invites you to attend the Rio Grande Heritage Festival from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 21, at the Los Lunas Agricultural Science Center, 1036 Miller Road.
During the Heritage Festival, experience New Mexico’s rich history and tradition by participating in activities and observing demonstrations including ristra making, corn husk dolls, sheep shearing, wool dying, food preservation, native plant identification, cast iron cooking, chile roasting, gourd art and live music. Lunch will be provided.
For more information about the Rio Grande Heritage Festival, the history of New Mexico green chile, or information on growing or safely processing chile, please call the Valencia County Cooperative Extension Service at 565-3002.
To register for an upcoming program, call the Valencia County Cooperative Extension Service at 565-3002. For more information, visit valenciaextension.nmsu.edu.
• Meadow Lake Kids Club: 4-5:30 p.m., Tuesdays, Aug. 13 & 27; Sept. 10, Free, Meadow Lake Community Center, 100 Cuerro Lane, Meadow Lake. Youth ages 4 – 18.
• Gardening Survival Series: Q & A and Fall Planting, 10-11:30 a.m., Saturday, Aug. 17, free, Bosque Farms Library, 1455 W. Bosque Farms Loop.
• Food Fiesta: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 24, free, Meadow Lake Community Center, 100 Cuerro Lane, Meadow Lake. Food tastings, ribbon cutting, raffle and free books!
• Iron Chef: Specialty Cooking Class: 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 29, $10, Peralta Methodist Church Community Education Building, 25 Wesley Road, Peralta. RSVP required by Aug. 23.
• Jams & Jellies: Canning Class: 9 a.m. to noon, Thursday, Sept. 12, $10. RSVP required by Sept. 5.
• Waterbath Canning Class: 9 a.m. to noon, Thursday, Sept. 19, $10. RSVP required by Sept. 12. Location provided upon registration.
• Healthy Cuisine: Asian Fusion: 9 a.m. to noon, Tuesday, Sept. 17, $10, Peralta Methodist Church Community Education Building, 25 Wesley Road, Peralta. RSVP required by Sept. 13.
If you are an individual with a disability who is in need of auxiliary aid or service to participate in a program, please contact the Valencia County Cooperative Extension Service office at 565-3002 two weeks in advance of event.
Newt McCarty, guest columnist
Newt McCarty is the former Valencia County agricultural agent for the New Mexico State University Cooperative Extension Service.