Postcard from New Mexico: Dried Red Chile Ristras

Red, green or Christmas? In New Mexico, Christmas is more than a holiday. It’s a food preference, local parlance for mixing red and green chile sauce on your enchilada or burrito. Chile is a cornerstone of the New Mexican economy and of its cuisine, so much that the state is the only one in the country with an official question (“red or green?”). Earlier this year, I met up with my parents in New Mexico during the annual Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, which falls right after the chile harvest. By then, chiles are all red, strung together in colourful ristras drying in the hot New Mexican air. 

Chile ristras in historic Old Town Albuquerque

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Chile harvest happens in the late summer and the fruits are strung together and hung outside homes and restaurants to dry so they can be ground into chile powder or used for cooking and eating during the winter. Ristras are not only a vibrant decoration on the state’s traditional Adobe houses, they’re also a sign of good luck. By Fall, when I visited New Mexico, you can buy ristras at farmer’s markets and roadside stands (and of course in pretty much every tourist shop!) 

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