Hatch Chile Harvest 2017
July 28th, 03:45 and it’s down to Arrey/Derry to check on the chile. It was a gorgeous morning for a drive. Just a perfect light rain was falling all the way from Rio Rancho thru Albuquerque, Los Lunas, Belen and Socorro. Just south of Fort Craig the sunrise was simply amazing.
I certainly had plenty of time to ponder the growth of our commercial business. 2 hours and 37 minutes after leaving Paula sleeping soundly I hit the Derry exit. Loma Parda road, also know as County Road 436 was just a skip and a jump away. The chile field we’ve been following is at the intersection of E61 and 436 on the west side of the road. The sun was just barely up over the mountains when I pulled in. And boy have the little chiles grown!
It was actually hard to find our little chile! In the picture above the now big plant is 10 rows to the right and 16 plants up. Below you can see how much this little fellow has grown.
The field we’ve been following will be picked on Monday the 31st for the first time. There has been a bit of delay in the chile harvest due to rain. Some fields received their first harvest before the showers but it seems as the majority are a bit behind.
The crop looks very healthy. I chatted with several folks out in the field and there didn’t seem to be any concerns. Driving around I was finally able to find a field under harvest even though it had rained this morning before I made it out to the fields.
Next I went back to MA and Sons and the processing plant. Randy was wonderful as always and gave me a tour of the green line in operation. The green line was running jalapeno at the time but I’ll be sure to return and get shots of chile being processed. I won’t post all of the shots due to IP concerns but let it suffice to say, the process is amazing.
So let’s follow a jalapeno through the line. We’ll start off at a feeder followed by an inspection station.
Here’s the first inspection station. There is a blower to get rid of leaves, a magnet, and a best of all some highly trained eyes and hands. It’s important to remember that this wonderful fruit is incredibly labor intensive. It doesn’t matter whether it’s jalapeno or green chile, hard work is involved.
To date mechanization has made some inroads into chile horticulture but not as much as most people think. It still must be harvested by hand, cleaned in the field by hand, sorted and inspected by hand at least twice in the plant and then packaged and handled.
Like most Americans around agriculture, we tend to forget how our food hits our plates. Or in the case of chile, ends up in those tow sacks piled next to the roaster at our local market. Or even in our green chile stew in mid-winter.
Later I’ll explore commercial storage and shipping and the many markets of chile. This is a fascinating plant and fruit, and I could probably write for years about the journey from field to fork.
If you’ve ever wondered what pepper spray is like, just visit a plant running jalapeno. Outside in the open air was tolerable. Inside in the roasting room was rough but next to the slicer was a gasper. As Randy pointed out, you do become accustomed to it. I didn’t hear a single sniffle from these ladies, or anyone else for that matter. I could hardly breath and I handle chile every day. Wow!
Even more to think about on the way home. It took until Socorro for my eyes and nose to stop burning. Unfortunately I forgot to wipe down my camera so later downloading pictures was fun, especially after I wiped my eyes. Ouch.
I’ll be back in a few weeks with more chile news. Many thanks again to MA and Sons!