Posted November 19, 2004 by Nick Lindauer in Peppers

Red Boosts Nutrition in Chiles

By Patricia Aaron
For the Journal
NEW MEXICO’S OWN: From mid-September until frost, green chile matures and turns deep red. Green chiles that turn red in the fields signal the coming of autumn in New Mexico, just like the yellow cottonwood leaves and blooming chamisa.
New Mexicans have traditionally harvested and strung red chiles into colorful strings called ristras, Spanish for “strings.” Ristras are an ingenious way to prevent mice and birds from damaging the pods as they dry in New Mexico’s sun for use during the winter. When it’s time to make chile sauce, cooks cut the pods from the ristras.
DESCRIPTION: Nearly all peppers start out green. If left to ripen before picking, they turn red, yellow, purple or whatever, depending on the variety. Green chile maturing into red chile is like an immature green apple ripening into a red one. The more mature the pepper, the hotter it is.
Chile peppers come in a staggering variety— Cayenne, Serrano, Tabasco and Paprika as well as Big Jim, Sandia, Barker and New Mex 6-4 or Hatch. All can be dried for later use.
NUTRITION: Generally speaking, the more vivid the color, the more nutrients the pepper contains. Red and yellow peppers are the real nutritional bargains. They have twice as much vitamin C as green ones— about 170 milligrams in 3 ounces. A red pepper has 9 times as much beta carotene (a precursor of vitamin A) as a green one. Peppers also contain potassium, plus a little folic acid, calcium, some fiber, carotenoids and beneficial phytochemicals.
TO BUY: Purchase a chile ristra with mature red chile pods. Hang the ristra in full sun where there is good ventilation. The chile can turn moldy and rot without proper air circulation. Mold causes discoloration which detracts from the ristra’s natural beauty and would preclude using the chile as food.
Chile pods from ristras sprayed with plastic, shellac or insecticide are not edible and are to be used for decoration.
TO USE: To make red chile purée, select 12 large red chile pods. Remove stems, seeds and yellow veins. Wash pods in warm water, lifting pods out of water and changing water several times.
In a large pan, cover washed chile pods with warm water. Let stand 1 hour for pods to rehydrate. Add warm water as needed.
Simmer pods and water 10 minutes. The pulp should be soft, thick and separate from the skin. In a blender, process pods and some of the water to a smooth purée. Press through a sieve to remove peel.
TO SERVE: Spoon Red Chile Sauce over meats, tacos, chile rellenos, eggs or beans. Serve as a dip with chips or fresh vegetables. Use as a sauce in enchiladas and other casserole dishes. Flavor soups and stews.
If you’d like directions for making a chile ristra, call 243-1386 in Albuquerque and request brochure “Using Chile … Making Ristras.”

1 cup red chile purée
1 cup water
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
In a medium-size pan, combine chile purée, water, garlic, salt and vegetable oil. Simmer 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in oregano and simmer 5 minutes. Makes 2 cups.

Patricia Aaron is the extension home economist with the Bernalillo County Extension Service and New Mexico State University

Nick Lindauer

The Original Hot Sauce Blog