Above: Chantelle Wagner tends to the family's U-pick chile field.
AT A NINE-ACRE FIELD in Los Ranchos de Albuquerque, would-be farmers are on the hunt. Big Jim Farms offers the only U-Pick chile adventure in New Mexico.
Now in its fourth season, the experience has taken off, says Chantelle Wagner, whose family operates the farm. “People make it a challenge to find the biggest chile,” she says. “It’s fun and kind of emotional. Chile has such a connection to New Mexico.”
Choose from among five varieties, from mild to extra hot, with on-site roasting as well as other produce, including pumpkins, from early September (when the chile is green) until first frost in October (when it’s red). During the full growing season, the Wagners hold socially distanced volunteer workdays with presentations by wellness experts.
“People love being out in the fields,” Wagner says. “They say it clears their heads.”
Read more from our "Ultimate Guide to New Mexico Chile"
The Mystery of Big Jim
A 10-year effort to restore one of New Mexico’s most distinctive chiles underscores how memory thrives in our taste buds.
José Gonzalez: The Allure of Chile Farming
Although he's tried other jobs, José Gonzalez keeps coming back to the farm where his family grows chiles, corn, beans and more.
The Ultimate New Mexico Chile Tasting Guide
We asked two experts to describe the flavors of New Mexico’s best chile varieties.
More Than Just Salsa
Capsaicin does more than make chile hot, it is used in medicinal creams, bear repellent and in foods to give captive birds and fish a reddish hue.
The Making of Chile U
One of the only scientific institutions devoted to a so-called condiment flourishes in Las Cruces.
Matt Romero: The Chile Roaster
Rooted in family history, Matt Romero brings that heavenly scent and his special flair to the Santa Fe Farmers' Market.
Rooted in Native Soil
Chile holds a very special place in the traditional foods of Southwest tribes.
Nick Maryol: Feeding the Soul
The owner of Santa Fe's Tia Sophia's, Nick Maryol understands how food creates ties to our families, our history and our culture.