How Hot Is Hatch?

| September 18, 2019 | 0 Comments | Email This Post Email This Post

By Andy Asher

Where Chili Reigns Supreme

Chili lovers everywhere are constantly on the prowl for the hottest, best, tastiest chili in the land. We decided to help in that search by tracking down someone who lives where many consider the chili capital of the world,  Hatch, New Mexico.  

We found Celeste Zimmerman who is the steward of St Francis de Sales Church in Hatch New Mexico. She resides in the Hatch Valley and this valley is in the Rio Grande Valley where the river is the lifeblood of everything around. And it  feeds the famous Hatch chili pepper.  

The Labor Day Transformation

Celeste says, “It’s an agricultural community where everything just seems to grow so well.” On Labor Day, the quiet town of Hatch becomes the site of the Hatch Chili Festival.  

Hatch is about one mile inland from Interstate 25. On Labor Day she says the road will be a steady line of cars from the interstate through Hatch out towards the airport where the festival is held.  

What’s In A Hatch?

What are all these chili lovers so enamored by? It’s in the name. To be an authentic Hatch pepper, the pods must be grown in the Hatch region. They go back to the 1920s when all New Mexican peppers were developed at the Chili Institute at New Mexico State University in the 1920s. Early researcher, Fabian Garcia crossed several chili pods to produce a smoother pepper that was better for canning.  Now it’s gone far beyond the can.

Scoville Heat Units

Who can talk about chili without rating its heat level? The answer to that is heat levels are variable. As any chili lover knows, it’s all rated on something called the Scoville scale that measures the pungency which means the spiciness or heat level. The scale was developed in 1912 named after Wilbur Scoville.  

The scale goes up to 80,000 Scoville Heat Units (SHU), considered very highly pungent. How hot is the Hatch? Well, it is considered fairly mild, at 1,000 SHU to around 8,000 SHU.

More Than Peppers?  Really

When our host Celeste isn’t minding her chilis she is the steward of the St Francis de Sales Church and a walking encyclopedia. The church was built in 1860 during the Civil War period.  In the west she says, “we had to understand there were Apaches that wanted their land too and big-time Apache wars were going on. 

Visitors to the church stop by daily just out of curiosity and others revisit memories like when a former altar boy at the church stopped by or when a couple who got married there come by or for visitors who had their First Communion and were baptized there. “The stories are just so heartwarming so amazing. We love to hear them. We learn as much from these people as they do from us. Yeah it’s just wonderful.” 

Celeste reminds us, “You want to plan to spend extra time to go sightseeing. I mean if you come all the way to be here for the Chile festival and you want to see everything else around here come hungry and come ready to leave with some bags of chilies and some local foods and have a good time.” 

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