The first Great New Mexico Chile Taste-Off in 2019.
John Larson | El Defensor Chieftain


The rodeo arena at the Socorro Rodeo and Sports Complex will be the go-to site for chile lovers this Saturday as the third annual Great New Mexico Chile Taste-Off returns to its original venue.

This year’s Taste-Off comes on the heels of last year’s adapted month-long take-home Taste-Off due to COVID-19 concerns.

The 2020 top grower – decided by the palates of random tasters across the state – was Rosales Farms in Lemitar, which bested 11 other growers from Farmington to Hatch.

This Saturday the Judged Taste-Off will return to the arena, and consist of a panel of judges that conduct blind tastings in the following categories: Green Mild, Green Hot, Red Mild and Red Hot. Chile is rated on a five-star scale, and the chile with the highest score for each category will win.

There is also a People’s Choice Taste-Off. That’s the competition in which the public could sample chile directly from growers and rank their favorite.

In addition to the actual Taste-Off, organizers promise a variety of food and drinks throughout the day, along with local vendor’s booths, live music, dancing, and performances.

Bueno Foods gave out free samples in 2019.

And chile can be purchased to take home.

The schedule begins with a parade leading to the rodeo arena.

  • 2 p.m. Parade in Socorro
  • 3 p.m. Gates open
  • 3:30 p.m. Opening Ceremonies
  • 4:30 – 5:30 p.m. Judged Taste-Off
  • 6:30 p.m. Winners announced
  • 7 p.m. Roasting of Giant Chile
  • 7:30 p.m. Red/Green fireworks display

This year the New Mexico Chile Association has named June Rutherford of Hatch as New Mexico’s Chile Queen.

At 95 years old, June is a chile farmer, mother, grandmother, role model – and with her late husband “Big” Jim – certified their own green chile seed, named appropriately enough, Big Jim.

“This strong and generous woman is a longstanding advocate for the agricultural industry and an expert in all-things-chile,” the announcement said. “More importantly, she is a role model to us for how to live well. When asked how to live a long life, June’s advice is simple: Work hard and eat chile!”

This third annual event is sponsored by the City of Socorro, County of Socorro, and Bueno Foods, and presented by New Mexico Certified Chile Association and New Mexico Certified Chile.

The New Mexico Chile Association is a non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring that the chile industry remains and prospers in New Mexico. The organization has been representing the industry for over a decade and is comprised of growers, processors and manufacturers.