Shakespeare gave us, “To be or not to be?” but in New Mexico, the question is simply, “Red or Green?”
The colors represent the varieties of chile – red or green – that one prefers on the local cuisine. Preference varies from Aztec to Artesia and Chimayo to Chilili. Southern New Mexicans may favor – and savor – the spicy green chile grown in Hatch Valley, while those in other parts of New Mexico crave the slightly smoother, yet still spicy flavor of the red chile sauce popularized on enchiladas, carne adovada and other New Mexican dishes.
But “red or green” is more than just a question of preference. Chile is not only a key ingredient in New Mexican dishes, but the peppers also play a vital role in the New Mexico economy as one of the state’s largest exports.
Prior to its introduction to New Mexico, the chile pepper had a long, rich history in Mexico and Central America, reaching back to before the first Europeans. From there chile peppers travelled with Spanish and Portuguese explorers. Later they were introduced in Asia, India and the rest of the globe.
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