What is Hatch Chile?
They’re called the chile-lover’s chile, but why?
If you’ve spent time in the Southwest, then you’re probably familiar with Hatch chile. But if you’re completely new to them, that’s completely fine, and you’re even a bit lucky since you’ll get to taste them for the first time. New Mexico’s prized pepper is only getting more popular, so you may get to relish in the distinct flavor sooner than you think.
What’s a Hatch Chile?
There are several varieties of Hatch chiles, and the name Hatch refers to where the chiles are grown: New Mexico’s Hatch Valley region, which includes the town of Hatch. The area considers itself the “chile capital of the world,” and grows several cultivated chile varieties. The most common is the NuMex 6-4, which was cultivated by New Mexico State University. Other Hatch varieties include the Barker, Big Jim, and R-Naky. All Hatch chiles have similar growth and flavor profiles, and are harvested in August and September.
Since there are several cultivars of Hatch chiles, their spot on the Scoville scale varies. According to Pepperscale, the milder Hatch chile’s Scoville range starts at around 1,000 SCU (Scoville heat units), while the hottest reach up to 8,000 SCU. So they vary in spiciness level between a Poblano or Anaheim pepper and a Serrano. The varied cultivars also means that Hatch chiles can measure anywhere from four inches to over a foot. Both green and red Hatch chiles are available, depending on when the pepper is harvested.
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You could say there’s something in the soil when it comes to a Hatch chile’s flavor. The Hatch Valley area features rich soil, and Hatch chiles reflect that with an earthier flavor than comparable peppers. Since the Hatch chile season is relatively short, at around 6 weeks in late August and September, people like to preserve them through roasting, then freezing. Roasting Hatch chiles also accentuates their buttery flavor.
You can use a Hatch chile wherever you’d use a less renowned one: Salsas, soups, enchiladas, you name it. Hatch chiles can be eaten raw, but the skin is pretty tough and most people prefer to roast them. Larger Hatch chiles are great for stuffing, such as in a chiles rellenos case.
You don’t have to go to New Mexico to access Hatch chiles. There are several varieties of roasted Hatch chiles and Hatch chili powder online. You can also find them at high-end grocery stores such as Whole Foods. However, if you consider yourself a pepper purist, you might want to make a trip to the Hatch Valley, perhaps even for the annual Hatch Chile Festival.
Hatch Chile Recipes
Got your hands on some Hatch chiles? Lucky you. Go ahead and make use of them with these Hatch chile recipes.