Texas Tech University

Red or Green: The Chile Pepper in New Mexico

How do you like your chiles? Red or green? Hot or mild? Whatever your taste, the chile is a staple of "Hot Cuisine" in the Southwest.

red chile peppersChile is the subject of a fun and educational traveling exhibit from the New Mexico Farm & Ranch Museum in Las Cruces. Red or Green? The Origins and Cultural Significance of the Chile Pepper opens at the Museum of Texas Tech University May 13.

The exhibit focuses on New Mexico chile varieties, their history and evolution, and how the came to have such a central place in the state's culture. A major theme of the exhibit is how chile became such an integral part of New Mexico without being native to the state. It's a part of three state symbols, there are festivals all over the state, and now we have the state's Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail.

The New Mexico State Legislature named the chile as a state vegetable in 1965 and designated Red or Green? as the state question in 1996, in reference to whether you prefer red or green chile on your food.

The exhibit traces the origins of the chile and how the Spanish brought the plant to the American Southwest in the early 1600s. It features the emergence of regional production centers such as Hatch and Chimayo, and the development of specific varieties by researchers such as Fabian Garcia at New Mexico A&MA College in the early 1900s.

Following the historical section, the exhibit focuses on how the chile became a key component of New Mexico culture – both as a cuisine and as a symbol.