If there is a Mecca for chile-heads, it is no doubt the Chile Pepper Institute.
Down the road from Hatch Valley, home to the beloved Hatch chile pepper, the Chile Pepper Institute at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, New Mexico, attracts chile lovers who geek out on all things rated on the Scoville scale (the measure of capsaicin heat). Yes, there is research and development taking place at the Chile Pepper Institute. Yes, there is the annual New Mexico Chile Conference for researchers, farmers, and industry types. But there is also the Fabian Garcia Botanical Gardens, open to the public.
During a self-guided tour, visitors can wander the rows of more than 150 varieties of the fiery fruit ablaze in an electric kaleidoscope that can include New Mexico State University-developed varieties such as NuMex Big Jim and NuMex Piñata.
Scheduled guided tours are also available. Those focus on chile history, production, uses, and nutritional value, and they take about an hour. The tour schedule begins in June and runs through November. Not surprisingly, summer tours are ideally led first thing in the morning.
Of course, savvy chile-heads could plan a visit to coincide with the Hatch Chile Festival, held annually during Labor Day weekend.
Chile Guajillo Enchilada Sauce
(Yields 1 gallon)
20 dry guajillo chiles
3 medium yellow onions, chopped
10 garlic cloves, chopped
1 cup oregano dry flakes
1 tablespoon cumin
¼ cup vegetable stock
Soak the dry chiles in water for 12 hours.
Strain and put the chiles in blender until they have a paste consistency.
In a sauce pan, cook chopped onion, garlic, oregano, and cumin over a medium heat. Add the chile paste and ¼ cup vegetable stock. Bring to a boil.
Once the mixture starts boiling transfer it to the blender. Afterward, strain it. Season with salt, pepper, and butter when it is ready to be serve.
For more information on the Chile Pepper Insitute and the Fabian Garcia Botanical Gardens, visit the Chile Pepper Institute’s website.
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Photography: NuMex Twilight develpped at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, New Mexico by Dr. Paul Bosland/Facebook
From the April 2019 issue.