Green Chile Stew – traditionally named “Caldillo” in Spanish is a thin, green chile stew (or soup) made with a meat base (usually beef, pork, chicken, mutton or a mixture), potatoes, and green chiles. Dating back as early as the 1600’s! New on Inn at Pueblo Bonito- Santa Fe’s breakfast menu for 2016 is a traditional family recipe of Green Chile Chicken Stew which compliments our famous Red Chile pork Tamales! The history of Chile and its importance in New Mexico culture and family is fascinating- so we encourage you to read on!
Green or Red Chile is, as fans know, a staple of modern New Mexican cuisine and has a fascinating history. Its legacy is partly European, American and human ingenuity. The spicy New Mexico Rio Grande and Hatch Green Chile comes from genus Capsicum. The green and red chile are sometimes thought to be two different types of peppers, but in fact are the same plant! Picked at different times, red chile is the ripened version of the green chile. “Hatch” a Green Chile product of New Mexico is synonymous with Green Chile today. New Mexico’s chile industry is a large contributor to its economy- so much so that in 2012, New Mexico harvested more acres of chile than any other state in the US! This distinction honored New Mexico as “the Chile Capital of the World”. But how did New Mexico end up with this honor? Well, it’s an interesting story which actually begins with Christopher Columbus!
While sailing, Columbus came across a string of islands now called the Caribbean (once known as West Indies). Exploring the islands Columbus found the chile plant- something he would never have encountered in his European homeland. The intensely spicy quality of the fruit reminded him of India’s black and white pepper (corns) and since the pods were red he named the plant “red peppers”. Columbus took the chile plant home to Spain as the ship’s doctors desired to explore its medicinal uses. Spanish monks then discovered that dried and pulverized chile peppers made an excellent substitute for peppercorns! Peppercorns were very valuable and used as money, so to replace them proved invaluable to Europeans. Thus the chile quickly spread through Europe and across the globe. In 1598 Don Juan de Onate was dispatched to colonize the northern border of New Spain (New Mexico) for which he brought the chile plant with him. The chile pepper worked itself into regional agriculture over the next 300 years, yet was not as highly appreciated then as it is today.
Chile plants are not native to the southwestern United States and require massive amounts of water- a resource not highly abundant to New Mexico. However, the chile thrived due to its versatile and unique use as food, spice, and medicine. In 1863 the U.S congress apportioned $50,000 for building roads for the express purpose of bringing the Colorado chile (as it was once called) to market. The Colorado Chile is not the chile we know and love today as it was unevenly hot, unreliable, and prone to disease. It took over 50 years of study by Dr. Fabian Garcia a Horticulturist from New Mexico State University in Las a New Mexico to develop and perfect the New Mexico chile product to exhibit the standards and qualities we enjoy today. Beginning in 1907 and taking 14 strains from three varieties of pepper (the Colorado, the negro, and the pasilla) in search of a smoother, meatier, tastier, and milder pepper that would resist wilting diseases Dr Garcia’s research came up with College #9! Crowned the winner of all chile through hybridization, requests from all over New Mexico poured in- and in large scale College #9 planting began. Later it was discovered that further selections could be made. Several new strains of chile came out of research and planting of College #9, but none more popular than the Rio Grande, named for the river that supplied its irrigation. This chile thrived, was adopted by farmers around the town of Hatch, New Mexico and has become known as the mother of all Chiles! The pepper eventually gained a massive, almost cult following as New Mexico adopted its chile image and gradually became the place to get the best chile in the world! Today Hatch, NM hosts an annual Chile festival attracting over 30,000 visitors in the month of September gathering chile fanatics from everywhere! Today the “chile” remains one of the cornerstones of the New Mexico economy and is even referred to in the States Official Question: “Red or Green?” (meaning which is your favorite choice of chile of course!).
We at Pueblo Bonito bed and breakfast inn in downtown Santa Fe are proud to indoctrinate our New Mexico visitors into this rich New Mexico chile tradition. Our guests are welcomed each morning to feast on locally made red chile pork tamales and a secret family recipe of Green Chile Chicken Stew. Lovingly prepared, guests enjoy bite after bite of tantalizing chile flavor boasting the rich traditions and pride of our New Mexico culture, family, and hospitality. You are cordially invited to be a part of our family traditions and make your time in Santa Fe more than a stay at Pueblo Bonito bed and breakfast inn.