BUNJAKO, CENTRAL REGION, UGANDA - SEPTEMBRE 25: Close up on hot pepper growing on plant on Septembre 25, 2018 in Bunjako, Central Region, Uganda. (Photo by Camille Delbos/Art In All of Us/Corbis via Getty Images)
Food - Drink
What Makes Hatch Chiles Unique?
There are over 50,000 different kinds of chile peppers grown around the world, though all hot peppers originated in the Americas, where spicy food is very popular in many regions. While some cultivators breed their peppers for maximum heat, others prioritize flavor and suitability for a given climate, as is the case with the famed Hatch chiles.
Like any crop, peppers grown in certain conditions taste different than chiles grown elsewhere. New Mexico's Hatch Valley is green chile central, an agricultural region that straddles the Rio Grande and is known for its fertile volcanic soil, warm days, and cool nights suited for Hatch chiles, a term that actually refers to several varieties.
Not all Hatch chiles are the same, but they're all part of the C. annum species and are bred specifically to grow in the Hatch Valley. Hatch chile peppers range in heat from mild to spicy; the hottest variety, the relatively new Lumbre, can reach 10,000 Scoville Heat Units (SHU), but most of these chiles are also about flavor, not just heat.
Bon Appetit describes the flavor of Hatch peppers as “like no pepper you've had before: it's sweet and smoky, it has a slight funk to it and a grassiness that makes it always taste like it's freshly picked.” If you don’t live in New Mexico, Hatch chiles can be found online, or even in grocery store chains like Wegman’s and Albertsons.