While the legacy of famous New Mexico chile peppers is known all across the Southwest, Governor Susana Martinez says that's not enough.
Martinez says the state's most revered chili pepper variety belongs in the ranks of other nationally recognized and certified food products like Vidalia Onions and Idaho Potatoes, the Governor kicked off the "New Mexico Certified Chile" trademark program during a special launch party Aug. 19 at the Range Restaurant in Bernalillo.
“Red or green is a question New Mexicans answer every day at breakfast, lunch and dinner,” said Governor Martinez. “Chile is a way of life in our state, ingrained in our culture and our economy. It supports more than 4,000 jobs and contributes more than $400 million every year to New Mexico’s economy. The one question no one should ever has to ask is, ‘Is this chile really New Mexican?’ This program further cements the status of New Mexico Chile on par with other nationally-renowned state and regional products.”
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The Range is the first New Mexico restaurant to participate in the program. Martinez said with the creation of the new program, “New Mexico Certified Chile” will join other well-known branded products that support signature crops of a state or region.
"It's a good day because we are recognizing just how great New Mexico chile is and this new program hopefully will take that legacy crop to a new level," Jeanine Chavez Eden, Certification Program Coordinator for the New Mexico Chile Association said following the event.
She said the objective now is to enlist growers, processing facilities, supermarkets and restaurants to join the program and keep New Mexico's chile pepper industry strong.
"In the face of stiff foreign competition, it's necessary to make certain that imitations are not sold or served or passed off as being New Mexico-grown. By proudly displaying the 'New Mexico Certified Chile' mark at their places of business or on packaging, it guarantees consumers are getting the real thing," she added.
In April of 2011, Governor Martinez signed into law the New Mexico Chile Advertising Act, which makes it illegal to advertise any product as New Mexico chile pepper unless it is actually grown within the borders of the state. The Governor says the New Mexico Certified Chile program builds on this legislation, giving consumers across the country the confidence that they are getting only certified chile pepper products.
“We are confident that we can continue to expand markets for the New Mexico chile industry as more consumers understand there is no imitation of the original,” said Dino Cervantes, a chile grower in the Mesilla Valley and president of the New Mexico Chile Association.
The first food company to sign up for the program is Bueno Foods, the first grower Penn Farms, and first grocer, John Brooks Supermart. Consumers can find these and other growers, products, retailers and restaurants that use New Mexico Certified Chile here.
New Mexico Chile Association officials say while the state's chili pepper industry has declined over the last 12-14 years, it has survived competition from cheap foreign labor by maintaining high quality crops with the unique flavor that comes from crops grown in the right soil and under the right conditions.
Chile pepper production requires a great deal of sunshine and hot daytime temperatures. But experts say the soil and cooler nights provide the unique flavor to the state's favorite food.
In addition to the good taste of New Mexico peppers, association officials say eating chile peppers is good for our health. One fresh medium sized chile has as much vitamin C as six oranges, and hot chile peppers burn calories by triggering a thermodynamic burn in the body, which speeds up metabolism.
Chile peppers are high in calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, vitamins C, A, B12, b6, niacin, folate, tryptophan, lysine, and phenylalanine. They may benefit blood pressure as a result of their capsaicin content, the compound that makes chile peppers hot. They are also very low in calories, fat, sodium and cholesterol, making them perfect for every diet.
If you are a restaurant or retailer or processor of New Mexico chili and are interested in the certification program you can learn more here.