Green Chile Article

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Families in the Southwest swear by green chile as a cure for the common cold, but that’s not all it’s good for.
Green chile or Capsicum annuum is a small perennial shrub with white flowers that belongs to the nightshade family along with tomatoes and eggplant. chile is New Mexico’s state vegetable, but debate rages between horticulturists and botanists as to whether it is a fruit or a berry.

The chile pods vary in size, shape and color depending on the variety. These plants can produce peppers ranging from bell peppers to jalapenos and the hotter Indian varieties. The spiciness of chile is measured on the Scoville scale in Scoville Heat Units (SHU). A bell pepper is a zero on the scale while jalapenos rank between 2,500-4,000 SHU. Green chile falls somewhere in the middle and can vary widely in heat depending on the type.

Chiles have been around for over 10,000 years and were used by the Incas, Mayans and Aztecs. Peppers were sometimes used as currency. On Columbus’ second voyage, Dr Diego Alvarez Chanca brought the first chile peppers back to Spain and wrote about their medicinal properties in 1494. Spanish settlers brought chile into present day New Mexico in the 1600s. New Mexico now produces 95% of the total US crop, worth $240 million.

If you ask a New Mexican, they will tell you Hatch Chile is the best, but if you ask a Colorado chile grower, they say Hatch Chile has no flavor. Betty Hirakata, owner of Hirakata Farms in Rocky Ford, CO is on a life long quest for better and hotter chile. Her 1,800 acre farm boasts several varieties of chile including Dynamite and Ugly, which are both rated hotter than jalapenos.

Chile isn’t just exquisite torture; it also has some notable health benefits. One medium green chile has as much vitamin C as 6 oranges. Chiles are high in antioxidants like vitamin A, beta carotene and lutein and minerals including potassium, manganese, iron and magnesium. The Capsaicinoids in the peppers can be used to make ointments and tinctures to treat sore muscles, bursitis, fibromyalgia and arthritis pain. Studies suggest that capsaicin has anti-bacterial, anti-carcinogenic and anti-diabetic properties as well as the ability to reduce LDL cholesterol. It has also been well documented to improve digestion and speed metabolism.

When buying chilies, look for bright color, a healthy stalk and avoid any with soft spots or discoloration. Chiles can be susceptible to mold and botulism, so they should be used or frozen within a week. The best way to have green chile is roasted in early fall. You can save chile in the freezer for up to 2 years, but be warned that it gets hotter the longer it is stored. Many grocery stores have roasters in the fall, but you can also find pre-roasted and peeled chile in the freezer section. Roasting the chile makes it easier to peel while adding flavor. The skins are edible, but have a less than pleasant texture and generally aren’t eaten. The seeds are also edible, but contain more heat.

If you find you can’t take the heat, milk is the antidote.

Story by – Leanne Johnson

~ by accordingtoleanne on August 5, 2011.

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