I was going to write about chile this week, what with the roasting still going on around town and the big chile cook-off coming up at SocorroFest, but then I thought, hmm…maybe I ought to tackle something weightier and more grown-up. You know, like the guys solving the world’s problems over morning coffee at the café do. You can rest assured 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,” so I’ll go back to my original thought: chile.
How can I not?
The custom at our house every year is to head down to our favorite chile farm for another 20-30 pounds of roasted green Sandias or Big Johns, bring ‘em home, strip ‘em and freeze ‘em. Green goodness for another year.
There's probably well over a couple dozen chile growers in Socorro County, with some selling at stands and others that ship 'em off to restaurants and packers and the like, but wherever you get yours, you can’t really 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. No. That's taking it a bit too far. 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 Cheerios) 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 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? Results of one study indicates 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 and 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.
Since I’ve brought this up, this is the last week of National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Children with cancer is one of the most heart-rending things I can think of, so bear with me if I get a little serious here.
You probably know the Mavericks 4-H Club has their St. Jude Walkathon every year, then there’s the American Cancer Society’s Run for Life, and every December the Owl Bar donates their wall of money to various charities; one of those being St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis. I’ve got to throw in here that St. Jude’s is near and dear to my heart, for if not for them my daughter Caroline would not be around to call her Dad from Texas ‘pert near every afternoon.
She developed a Wilm’s Tumor when she was not yet a year old. In less than a week after she was diagnosed the docs at St. Jude had that tumor out. Then she was on chemo for the next year or so just to make sure the cancer hadn’t metastasized. But that’s not all. They follow her condition throughout her lifetime, and schedule in-person visits in Memphis every five years.
She just celebrated her 37th birthday. I can’t say enough good things about those nice people at St. Jude hospital. And they, as well as all the other research institutions, do it mostly with donations.
I guess I do have an opinion on something after all.
When all’s said and done though, I’m going to keep up my green chile habit. You never know…