Fields in Hatch, New Mexico, are bright green and prime for picking. The small farming town tucked in the southwestern corner of the state (population 1,648) has become famous for its green chiles, which are a variant of the Anaheim pepper. For decades the town has hosted a Hatch Chile Festival on Labor Day weekend, to which more than 10,000 of their closest admirers make an annual pilgrimage. The party and its guest of honor caught on, and many have spread the good word about the peppers of Hatch.
If you can't make the drive over to New Mexico for the party this year, no worries. Central Market is hauling in more than 250,000 pounds of the peppers during the late summer harvest this year to their nine stores around Texas.
Marty Mika is Central Market's produce buyer for all of Texas. He says there are a few characteristics of the Hatch that make it so popular.
"Even though it's an Anaheim pepper, the peppers grown in Hatch are more conducive to roasting because their skin comes off so easy," says Mika. "Peppers grown in other parts of the country don't have this trait."
Mika says that during this annual Hatch-apalooza at Central Market, all of the peppers are from Hatch (none are pulled from other areas and thrown into the same pile).
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Die-hard fans buy the peppers by the box load, often freezing the peppers in small bags to throw in a variety of recipes throughout the year. Fans of the Dallas food scene will also find Hatch peppers on burgers, pizzas and in tacos throughout the metroplex for the next couple of months.
CM is offering some cooking classes that use the peppers in their recipe repertoire and, as always, there will hatch peppers in a myriad of other items, like the Hatch pesto, Hatch cream cheese, Hatch pimento cheese, Hatch everything. Even a savory sorbet called "Fire and Ice."
All of the peppers of Hatch are harvested in about six weeks. The first batches have already made their way to Central Market, but they'll continue to receive shipments for a few weeks. You can buy them roasted or fresh. If you roast and peel them yourself, party tip: wear gloves.
The catch here is that once they're gone, they're gone. Get them while you can. The official Hatch Festival at Central Market runs now through August 20.