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Garden Lifestyle

Chile Harvest Peaks with Autumnal Equinox

Although I've been harvesting chile peppers from the garden for some time now.

  • Just-roasted, steaming hot, Hatch green chiles! Click on other pix to enlarge and read captions.
    Photo/Illustration: Susan Belsinger
  • Hatch green chiles delivered by the truckload--look for some in your neighborhood--this is at Wegmans in Columbia, Maryland. Or buy green chiles at your farmers' market. Now is the peak of the season, so put them up while you can!
  • Green chiles come in mild, medium and hot.
  • Gas-fired chile roasters are efficient and quick. They can char the skins black in minutes, without overcooking the chiles.
  • Shawn, the chile roaster about to load a 25-pound case into the roaster.
  • Loading the roaster.
  • Ready to roast and roll!
  • The roaster turns so the chiles continually move as they roast.
  • Gas jets are very hot and fast--it takes 3 to 5 minutes to roast a 25-pound case.
  • Just-roasted chiles.
  • Mmmm-mmm-good--and hot! Green chile rajas, salsa, in beans and even guacamole!
  • There is nothing like a panful of slow-simmered green chile sauce. It freezes well (if there is anything left!). It is great on enchiladas and burritos; my favorite is Huevos Rancheros with Green Chile Sauce.

I find that the Autumnal Equinox is synonymous with the peak of the chile pepper season. Today is the day of the fall equinox, when daylength and night are just about equal in length (well, within minutes). Although the earth has been producing chiles since midsummer, as well as working toward this seasonal date, these two events seem to coincide every September–at least in my zone 7 garden.

Being a confessed chilehead, I delight in this time of year since I am harvesting both red and green, even orange, yellow and purple capsicums in bounteous quantities. And then there is this glorious weather–the high heat of summer has passed–and we are experiencing lovely warm days with blue skies and fluffy clouds and cooler nights so that I need a blanket or two, to sleep. I can smell fall in the air. I want to spend as much time outdoors as possible. And there is plenty to do in the garden from harvesting to planting late fall crops, not to mention cleanup and getting rid of dead plant material.

Even though I grow green chiles, and I prefer homegrown and local, I never seem to have enough. A fellow chile aficionado, whom I call Chile Dave, recently gave us the heads-up that Wegmans grocery stores in our area were getting shipments of Hatch green chiles. Having visited a 500-acre chile ranch in Hatch, New Mexico, many years ago when I was writing New Southwestern Cooking with co-author Carolyn Dille, I knew just how superb these green chiles are. So I called my local Wegmans and found out that they were arriving last weekend. Not only was I able to order a 25-pound case at a reasonable price, they were bringing in gas-fired chile roasters and I could have them roasted there on the spot. I had a choice of mild, medium or hot–need I tell you that I ordered hot? They even asked me the hour that I would pick them up, so they could be just-roasted and waiting. So I put in my order and anticipated all of the dishes I could prepare from Rajas to Green Chile and Herb Sauce, green chile enchiladas, roasted green chile salsa and green corn tamales. Yahoo!

I took my camera, so I could photograph the process, as you can see in the pictures above. I met the chile roaster of the day, Shawn, and I also met the local rep from Melissa’s Produce Company, who organized 13 such events on the East coast. They were taking a break in the roasting when I arrived, however, when I told them I wanted to see the process, Shawn happily fired up the roaster and completed roasting a case of chiles in less than five minutes! They sold out of hot, so next year, they plan on bringing more hot chiles and less mild.

My mouth watered the whole way home with that case of roasted green chiles perfuming the entire car. We had green chiles for dinner that night and for the next five meals! I froze the rest, which will slip easily out of their skins once thawed. Keep you eyes and ears open in case there is a chile happening in your neighborhood!

See how to roast your own green chiles at /item/6581/hot-hot-hot-get-ready-to-preserve-the-chile-harvest.

Happy harvest season, autumn equinox–and Buen Provecho!

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