I was going to write about chile this week, what with the roasting still going on around town and the Great New Mexico Chile Taste-Off coming up Saturday, but then I thought, hmm…maybe I ought to tackle something weightier and more grown-up. You know, like the ol’ boys sitting around the table solving the world’s problems over morning coffee do, and you can rest assured that in New Mexico with any three people you’ll get four opinions. It can get hairy.
Geez, on second thought maybe I should stay away from all that. As Mark Twain put it, “I am not one of those who in expressing opinions confine themselves to facts,” I’ll go back to my original thought: chile.
How can I not?
The preferred custom every year is to head down to your favorite chile farm for another 30 pounds of roasted green Sandias or Big Johns, bring ‘em home, strip ‘em and freeze ‘em in handy zip-lock baggies. Green goodness for another year.
I guess there’s probably well over a couple of dozen chile growers in Socorro County, with some selling at stands and others that ship ’em off to restaurants in Santa Fe and the like, but wherever you get yours, you can’t appreciate the properties of green chile until you peel ’em yourself. Barehanded.
Of all the varieties, any chile is the best chile, but it must be not only from New Mexico but from Socorro County farmers, for a chile that comes in a can from a company that named itself after Hatch does not necessarily a great green chile make. Why am I talking like Yoda here?
For some, the phrase “fruit of the vine” connotes wine, but for me, it’s chile, because other than being the perfect ingredient to virtually any dish, green chile is packed with good things, all healthy. It’s better even than penicillin. Well, that’s taking it a bit too far, but maybe better than yerba mansa. Whatever the case, I wouldn’t want to take it intravenously. That’s reserved for coffee.
We all know that chile of either color can improve the flavor of just about any food (except maybe Cap’n Crunch) and Socorro County chile is arguably the best in the state. But more than the welcoming burst of flavor and heat, study after study shows that chiles – specifically the capsaicin within – are an important source of nutrition and overall good health.
According to one study, chile can provide pain relief for migraine and sinus headaches.
Capsaicin may help to protect the heart by reducing cholesterol, triglycerides, and something called platelet aggregation. It may also help the body dissolve fibrin, which is necessary for blood clots to form. Cultures around the world that use hot peppers liberally in their meals have significantly lower rates of heart attack and stroke than cultures that do not.
And what about the biggie? The Big C? Results of one study indicate that capsaicin drives prostate cancer cells to kill themselves. That ain’t no little thing, to use my southern vernacular.
Even here in Socorro the profs and student researchers over at New Mexico Tech are always looking into different diseases, including cancers, and their research is shared statewide in New Mexico’s INBRE network. Student scientists from Tech, NMSU, and UNM gather for a symposium once a year to share their investigations and abstracts, and it’s likely all that work will get us closer to cures.
One more thing. Where did September go? That whole month was a blur, zooming past when I wasn’t looking. But having said that, I wholeheartedly welcome October; the month of Halloween, Dias de las Muertos, Frankenstein Friday, not to mention the Trinity Site Open House, Tech’s always creative 49ers parade, and oh yes, Columbus Day this coming Monday.
Here in New Mexico, it was officially changed to Indigenous Peoples Day a couple of years ago, and in like fashion, other states have made the switch.
As I recall my high school geography book, the ancestors of our indigenous population had settled around here after their fore-bearers came to North America across a land bridge from Siberia some 19,000 years ago.
However, not to be outdone, some renegade archeologists say there is evidence that humans were in North America as far back as 130,000 years. And what about the Clovis people?
This is the point where my brain gets wonky and the neurons start jumping synapses, kind of like it did when I was trying not to flunk algebra, and if I take this much further I may have to resort to a flow chart in a PowerPoint presentation. Heaven forbid.
So, with all this in mind, I can see why some people wonder if Columbus Day should still be a thing.
No matter, I’m going to celebrate whichever it is this Monday with something to smother green chile on.