Aug 4, 2011

Chiles beat the heat: State's favorite veggie weathers tough growing conditions

From the Santa Fe New - The familiar roasters are popping up, spinning their Hatch green chile and luring in customers with the unrivaled smell of charred skins. At Los Chile Bros., in business for 25 years, owner Johnny Duran is happy to be out selling chile at his usual Big Lots rental spot on Cerrillos Road after a spring and summer of unfavorable crop conditions. Although New Mexico is known for all things chile, this year's drought and extreme heat have withered almost a quarter of Duran's crop. "We like the heat, but what's happening is that it's too hot and it's burning up the little flowers," said Duran, who opened his stand last week. "And each flower is a chile." According to the National Weather Service, this July was the fourth warmest on record dating back to 1895. The warmth — combined with a winter snowpack that provided Duran with only 4 inches of spring water compared to the usual foot, as well as cold weather that extended well into the third week of May — has delayed the ripening of his chiles. Although he was running behind his usual selling start date of July 26 by just two days, Duran is now selling only three varieties of the Hatch chile: mild, hot and extra-hot. Usually by the end of July, Duran has all of his varieties available, including the Big Jim chiles. Chile always has been a popular vegetable for private gardeners to nurse from seedlings, according to Emily Skelton, who works in the seed department of Plants of the Southwest. But she said that despite the chile's popularity, it is an unpredictable plant to grow in places like Santa Fe because of the fluctuation of daily temperatures, even in the summer. Read more

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