Zingy, earthy, pungent, and subtly peppery with no heat just full chili pepper flavor; it’s Hatch Chile time!
Mounds of shiny peppers are piled in open crates at the front of my local market. Their long, narrowish bodies, all slick and wavy, tumbled together resemble the day’s catch in a fish market. In every shade of green, with some already beginning to ease their way to red, they remind me that autumn is on its way. I love that we still have some food that is seasonal! For fresh Hatch chilies the season is short, just a couple of weeks toward the end of summer. After that you can only get them frozen or canned.
Hatch chilies are a specific type of chile and are technically relatively new to the chile scene. By “new” I mean about 150 years. They are a cultivar of the chili pepper, created at New Mexico State University in the 1800’s. These chilies gets their name from Hatch, New Mexico, the town and surrounding region where they are grown and harvested. They do indeed have their own unique flavor and are one of the few members of the capsicum family that I really enjoy.
From a culinary perspective, Hatch chilies are embedded in the cuisine of New Mexico, even though they are relatively new, the use of chilies in Native cuisine is not and the Hatch chile has been embraced fully into the heart of the kitchen in New Mexico. Because they are so flavorful and relatively mild, they make a great addition to dishes both sweet and savory believe it or not.
They are typically roasted first, which is its own interesting process and can be done in an oven, although fire roasting imparts really amazing flavor. Then they can be used in anything from Chile rellenos to enchiladas, chili sauce, soups and stews and even pies and ice creams. I have yet to try Hatch chile ice cream but I have had them in pumpkin pie and it is an interested and very tasty experience.
From a health perspective, Hatch chilies have all the benefits of their chile relatives. They are a great source of vitamins and minerals like C, B and A as well as calcium, iron and potassium. The chemical compound that chilies are most noted for includes capsaicin, which is notable in a variety of ways. The hotter the flavor the higher the capsaicin content which means the higher the endorphin release when you eat them. Of course, there is a threshold so the hatch peppers make a nice choice for just the right benefit. They are also great for immune function, increased digestion, and contain a wide variety of antioxidants.
If you are in an area that is lucky enough to get a batch of fresh Hatch chilies delivered, I say, grab a few and embark on a culinary adventure.