In late summer, a wonderful smell begins in Southern Colorado and New Mexico. Soon enough, parking lots everywhere are filled with folks selling fresh chiles and roasting them in rotating “barrels” over propane jets. The smell of the copious smoke clouds that puff up is incredible: a smoky, vegetal, clinging stench with lots of bitter and char. The popping and crackling of the skins and seeds, the hiss of the steam from blasts of water, and the roar of the propane are the sounds of the season.
A few weeks ago, I drove to Colorado and returned with a small bag of fresh Pueblo Hots. There are different types of chiles and they are grown in different areas. Like all agricultural products, the soil, sun, wind, and water have a strong effect on flavor and texture. The most famous chiles – from New Mexico – are primarily Hatch, which is where they are grown. I’ve also has Socorro chiles, and they were also divine. In Southern Colorado, Pueblo is well-known for farms and for great chiles, the Pueblo chile. It’s a different chile than the New Mexico chiles, and has a slightly different flavor, a bit more bitter. They aren’t as long as the New Mexico chiles, and they have the more classic “chile” shape used in advertising and such.
Needless to say, they’re all good, but I’m especially stoked to have some true-blue Pueblo Hots. (Hots as compared to Very Hots or Mediums – I need my ass to be a non-burning issue, so I didn’t go crazy!)
Chiles prefer hot, dry days and cool nights. In a normal year, there would be heaps of Pueblo chiles, but there were just a couple of baskets. When I was rung up at the farm store, they advised me to come early in September because the harvest was the worst ever and they would run out very early. The cause of all of this – too much rain! It’s raining multiple times a week and many fields aren’t getting enough chance to dry out and it’s causing mildew and other moisture-related issues they normally don’t worry about. This is yet another example of climate change seeming beneficial at first glance, but proving to be a change that threatens agriculture. In this case, extra rain in an arid environment that depends on irrigation for crops means that best practices, infrastructure, and localized plant stock are threatened.
Ok, enough background, let’s get cooking!