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It’s that time of year. The nights are getting cooler, and on sunny weekend days, the smell of green chile being roasted fills the air and sets our senses tingling. But do you know where the chile you are buying or ordering in your favorite restaurant was grown?

Just because you find chile in New Mexico doesn’t mean it is from New Mexico.

New Mexico chile is known for its incredible flavor and fiery heat. Chile is so intrinsic to everything New Mexican that our state question is “Red or Green?” We put it on everything from eggs and cheeseburgers to turkey sandwiches and pizza. Chile production contributes significantly to our state’s economy and tourism industry and is celebrated at festivals throughout the state.

Chile harvested in New Mexico has been in continual decline, with foreign companies taking advantage of reduced regulation and cheap, plentiful labor. If this trend continues, our chile crop could virtually disappear in a few years. You have probably heard the stories about chile being sold as “Hatch” or “New Mexico Grown” when it comes from outside New Mexico, or even outside the United States. You would probably be surprised at the popular New Mexican restaurants that use chile grown outside of New Mexico.

In response to consumer demand for real, authentic, homegrown New Mexican chile, The New Mexico Chile Association developed the New Mexico Certified Chile Program (NMCC).

The NMCC works to verify and certify the chile you buy and consume is actually grown in New Mexico, and it is free for small farmers, farmers’ markets, restaurants, grocers and distributors.

How can you be certain that you are getting genuine New Mexico chile? Ask! Next time you eat out or purchase chile to cook at home, ask where the chile comes from. Look for the NMCC logo at your favorite restaurant and read grocery store labels carefully.

If you are proud of the tradition that chile represents and want the guarantee of the unique flavor, high quality and reputation of New Mexico chile, make sure it is certified, home grown in New Mexico. Ask your grocer to stock New Mexico chile and New Mexico chile products. When you dine out, ask for New Mexico chile.

You have many choices with places to eat and buy chile. If you support the chile growers and producers that are keeping the tradition of New Mexico-grown chile alive, then frequent the restaurants and buy from those that are certified by the NMCC. Help ensure that we will continue to grow and enjoy the best chile in the world for generations to come.

Pamela Schaefer, director New Mexico Certified Chile Program