Whether it’s the zesty kick to the tongue or the improved metabolic health that comes with their consumption, chiles are loved the world over. For those individuals in the Southwest who really know their stuff, though, the Hatch chile reigns supreme. Even culinary connoisseurs can’t know it all, but if you want to take a shot at it, here’s everything you need to know about Hatch chiles.
Hatch Chiles Come from One Place
The first thing you need to know about Hatch chiles is that their name isn’t very original. They’re not named after reality star Richard Hatch or a shortened form of “hatchet” to signify an over-the-top way of harvesting. The truth is simple: They got their name simply because they’re grown in the Hatch Valley.
While it may sound strange, the Hatch Valley is the only place this delectable chile can be grown. Many companies claim their jarred chile sauce or vegan tamales are made with Hatch chiles, but if their chiles are sourced from anywhere other than this New Mexican valley, the claim is untrue.
If you’ve tried a Hatch chile, you undoubtedly can taste the difference. Just as the soil in Napa Valley creates flawless wine, Hatch is the one place that’s perfect for growing these perfect chiles.
History of Hatch Chiles
The history of Hatch chiles is steeped in the history of the town itself, and the conditions to produce the perfect chile were there long before anyone started to harvest them. The New Mexican soil combined with the hot days and cool nights create the perfect combination for the perfect chile. And in the grand scheme of things, these conditions were around long before settlers were.
As it turns out, we’re lucky to even have the chiles we enjoy when we buy tamales and wonder how to roast Hatch chiles perfectly. The small village of Hatch, then known as Santa Barbara, was settled in 1851. It was abandoned shortly thereafter and then reoccupied in 1853. Just seven years later, though, everyone pulled up stakes and left the area again.
Were it not for brave pioneers who returned in 1875, we may never have known that the perfect Hatch green chiles were within our grasp the whole time. Although we can’t guarantee or prove the idea, we think there’s a good shot that the Hatch chile is what finally kept the settlers around.
Hatch Chiles: The “Perfect Storm”
The combination of soil, climate, temperature and other factors that contribute to the world-famous Hatch chile is no doubt a “perfect storm” in itself. Even if you were to drive out to Hatch when your boss finally gives you the weekend off, there’s no guarantee that you’d find farmers growing the popular chiles.
This is because Hatch chiles must be grown during a certain time of the year. Seeds are typically planted near the beginning or middle of June. This provides the hot temperatures necessary for the perfect chile. The growth period is around 85 days, so whether you’re at a tamale festival or Googling the process of freezing Hatch chiles, you can rest assured they were harvested in late August.
Once the harvest is over, it’s over. The window of opportunity to provide Hatch chiles to the world is done. They are then either fire roasted or steamed, but any chile connoisseur can attest to the fact that fire roasting is the only right way to go. While steaming is simpler, you’ll lose most of the flavor by doing so.
Hatch Chile Celebrations Aren’t Uncommon
There’s a constant battle over whether the best chiles are flavorful or spicy. The perfect level of spice combined with robust flavor creates the ideal medium that has driven the popularity of the Hatch chile. Of course, anyone who writes a blog about a food they enjoy will probably overstate its popularity. The countless Hatch chile events, however, prove that overstatement isn’t possible in this matter.
The Hatch Chile Festival at Central Market (HEB) takes place August 8-22. During this time, they feature Tucson Tamales and events such as Hatch chile roastings. Of course, Hatch has its very own festival typically at the beginning of September. After all, how could the “Chile Capital of the World” not host such an event?
These celebrations even take place far outside of the chile’s namesake town. The Farmers’ Market in Grand Prairie, Texas, for instance, has its own Hatch Chile Festival in August. Ventura, Orange and Los Angeles counties host over 70 chile roastings. Even the Smorgasburg event in New York City has become home to condiments and meals featuring the Hatch chile.
There’s really no denying it: Hatch chiles have taken the country by storm.
Hatch Chiles Can Be Enjoyed Year-round
Enthusiastic consumers eagerly await the availability of Hatch red chiles in October, once the chiles take on a crimson color. Of course, this is pretty much the end of all the excitement. Right? Fortunately, the popularity of Hatch chiles has led to innovative solutions to ensure we can enjoy them year-round.
Countless techniques have been attempted to preserve the chile over the long haul. When it comes down to it, though, freezing Hatch chiles has remained the perfect tactic for protecting the chile. Unlike the steaming of these tasty delicacies, freezing them actually maintains the flavor.
This means that, no matter where you call home, you can have a taste of the best chile the Southwest has to offer.
Now You Know, So Enjoy!
Whether you’re heading to your first tamale festival or looking for unique edible gifts online, you’ll undoubtedly come across Hatch chiles. Everything from the history to the cultivation of this popular chile has a mystique to it, and this could certainly be one of the reasons it has gained such acclaim. Then again, it could just be their amazing taste. If you’ve got a favorite Hatch chile sauce, let us know on Facebook so we make more!
Check out all of our amazing Green Chile inspired Tamales: https://tucsontamale.com/collections/green-chile
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Heading to a tamale festival? Trying to make unique edible gifts? Hatch chiles are certainly the way to go. Of course, this raises the question of whether to steam or roast Hatch chiles. Here’s the answer!
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