Red Chile | Hatch, NM, November 2014
Red chile harvest starts at the end of September and lasts until December at the Chile River Farm in Hatch located in the Southern part of New Mexico. Red chiles start out as green chiles and turn color and flavor around October. With only a few inches of rain and many sunny days in the late fall/early winter months, the green chiles are able to dry out and turn red easily. Ninety percent of red chiles are machine harvested where the crop is dried and crushed into powder for cooking. The other ten percent is harvested by hand and sold to small vendors who sell the chiles whole. Harvesters move down the rows on their knees or crouching down, picking the chiles and placing them into 10-gallon rubber buckets. Since red chile harvests are a much smaller operation than green chile and the red chiles are already dry, the harvesters unload their buckets into large burlap sacks in the field instead of harvest bins. Harvesters wear long sleeved shirts, pants, and hats to protect themselves from the sun. In the high desert of New Mexico, the sun may be intense but the outside temperature during harvest season can drop down into the 20's F.