Chile baskets

The Great New Mexico Chile Taste-Off will be conducted this Saturday, September 21, at the Socorro Sports and Rodeo Complex.

“It will be a fun-filled event for the whole family, centered around the best chile in the world,” said Sonja Schroeder, executive director of the New Mexico Chile Association. “There will be food, drinks, activities, and music. When the sun goes down, we will have red and green fireworks and the roasting of giant paper mache red and green chiles.”

The association has invited growers from around New Mexico to bring their chile to face-off in two planned competitions: A Judged Taste-Off and a People’s Choice Taste-Off.

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

There will also be a People’s Choice Taste-Off, in which the public is invited to sample chile directly from growers and rank their favorites. The chile receiving the highest score wins.

New Mexico Chile Board of Directors member and chile farmer Glen Duggins, a recent board member who joined the group in January of this year, has been at the forefront of bringing this event, initially scheduled to take place in Albuquerque, to Socorro.

A main focus for the NMCB is to combat fraudulent chile being sold throughout the state that is not grown in New Mexico, particularly products brought in from Mexico. Their goal is to ensure that authentic certifications are put on all state grown chile products.

“It’s sure to be a great competition, as we’ve had a lot of interest among growers from all around New Mexico,” Duggins said. “We can’t stop and are not against Mexican Chile,” Duggins said. “Our issue as farmers is marketing it as local. If it’s not then don’t sell it as though it is. So we want to celebrate our local growers from around the state. Fortunately I was able to sell coming to Socorro during a board meeting because I knew we have a very supportive mayor and great new facility here in Socorro. Plus we’re in the center of the state.”

The Association will provide a winner’s badge for all five winning categories (four from the judged event and one People’s Choice) that can be used by the winning growers to promote their chile and chile products produced in 2019. In addition, winning growers will receive a free one-year membership to the Association’s New Mexico Certified Chile program.

After an 11:30 a.m. parade that will take place along California Street leading to the rodeo complex, multiple competitors will be given the opportunity to roast their crop when gates open at 12:30 p.m.

Lt. Governor Howie Morales will be one of 12 judges expected on hand to judge the event during a 2 p.m. taste off, following a 1 p.m. people’s choice taste test.

Farmers will be roasting chile on the rodeo grounds as well as selling their product throughout the afternoon. Live music, a New Mexico Chile Queen crowning, dancing and horse riding will take place throughout the afternoon before culminating in a Giant Chile Burn ceremony complete with a fireworks show donated by James and Kathy Martin.

“I’m thrilled to help bring this event to Socorro,” Duggins said. “This is a dying industry in New Mexico. We want to reinvigorate it anyway that we can. Our product may cost a bit more than those imported which we can’t stop. All that we can do is show how great our local chile really is. People can buy the cheap stuff or the real deal.”