Earlier this year, my husband and I embarked on a new adventure, The Land of Enchantment, beautiful New Mexico. While staying at a Casa Escondida in Chimayo, we were directed to a local farmer for the defining ingredient in New Mexican cooking: Chiles. We were told to arrive in the morning since Earl headed down to his fruit stand around lunch. We arrived while Earl was finishing a sale of ristras for a few ladies who were buying them for their homes back in Texas, and then started chatting to him about his life in Chimayo and his love of his chiles.
Have you always farmed chiles?
I used to help my dad with the place when he ran the fields, now my family and I run it as well as a fruit stand 4 miles down the road from here. We don’t just sell chiles there, we have wood carvings, piñon and ristras, too.
Does your family make the ristras?
We grow the chiles and at the end of the year we dry them. We hire people to make them – they use needle and thread – and then we price them according size.
Do you have a favorite chile that you sell?
I like them all! I can’t do hot any more so I eat the medium chiles. We use our chiles in all our food. Those red chile flakes? We use them in posole. Slow cook the pork all day and throw some in, it’s delicious. You can use your green chile powder in everything, too. When we are sick, we put the blue corn atole in hot water or milk and drink it. Piñon you eat like sunflower seeds and spit out the shell, or we sell them without the shell.