Wait until you smell a tumbler of roasting Hatch chiles. You’ll want to follow your nose, but be quick about it. The Hatch chile of New Mexico is a delicacy that is generally available fresh only during August and September. The rest of the year, the chiles—whole, chopped or sauce—only come jarred or canned. The peppers are also geographically exclusive, being grown in and named for the Hatch Valley region that stretches along the banks of a curving Rio Grande in eastern New Mexico about 80 miles north of El Paso, Texas. While 37 varieties exist, to be considered authentic they must be grown in the Hatch region.
What distinguishes the nine-inch-long-by-two-inch-diameter chile is not heat. They register 1,000 to 1,800 on the Scoville pungency scale (between a third of and equal the heat of a jalapeño). What makes the Hatch special is its sweetness. Eaten raw, any heat the green Hatch delivers comes at the beginning. The overarching flavor is rather earthy and is similar to the more common Anaheim pepper. Hatch aromas can include onion and garlic.
What you really want to do is roast them. During the season, you’ll see hundreds of Hatch chiles being put into roasting tumblers over an open flame. (Achieve that at home on your stove over an open flame.) Roasting chars much of the pepper’s skin and brings out the richer, smoky, even buttery flavors. Let the young, green Hatch chile age to a ripe, red color and it will become more mellow and the heat will bloom at the end of your tasting.
Among the best ways to eat a Hatch chile is to take a roasted piece and put it on a burger. Or in pork chile verde. Or in an enchilada. Or in shakshuka with eggs. Or cornbread. In fact, the list of good ways to eat Hatch chile may outlast the season.