Some like it hot and some not so hot. I’m one of the latter. Thanks to the Chile Pepper Institute at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, I can ban the burn and savor the spice with my new knowledge.
You have to hunt for this tiny storehouse of chile knowledge – it’s tucked inside Gerald Thomas Hall on the west side of the campus. Open from 8 – 5, Monday through Friday, they’re closed on weekends and university holidays. Check the FAQ section on their web site – –  for directions.
The Chile Pepper Institute’s function is to educate the public about chile peppers. New Mexico State is the logical place to do that. The University has been in the forefront of research and development since the late 1800s. You’ll hear about that history here – and Dr Fabian Garcia who worked to breed peppers for consistency, ushering in one of New Mexico’s largest industries.
You’ll also have an opportunity to taste a variety of chile sauces from mild to hot. Tee shirts, cookbooks, ristras, seeds and plants are among items available for purchase. And they usually have frozen green chiles for sale.
So what are some of the things I learned at the Chile Pepper Institute? The most important thing is that water is the worst remedy for mouth burn from a hot pepper. You need something with casein in it – milk, ice cream, even bread. I also learned that different kinds of peppers affect different areas of the mouth. Some create a heat sensation on the lips and tip of the tongue. Others affect different areas from mid-tongue to throat.
And I now know that there is no particular variety called “Hatch.” Hatch refers to peppers of several varieties grown in New Mexico’s Hatch Valley.
If you visit between June and October, inquire about visiting the teaching gardens where you can see over 100 varieties ranging in heat from bland bells to hot habaneros.
The Chile Pepper Institute is worth a visit – if only so you can wow your friends with your red-hot reporting.
Elaine Warner is a travel writer based in Oklahoma.  She often writes for AAA Home & Away, Oklahoman, 405, and other top publications that feature travel.