Savor the Traditional Foods of ChimayóChimayó authentic food and Northern New Mexico cuisine are based on the chile pepper, which appears in time-tested recipes handed down by word of mouth from one generation to the next. Yes, in New Mexico we spell our chile with an "e," not an "i," to differentiate it from the beef and bean stews of other regions.
Chile has been a staple Chimayó crop for centuries, as well as a major trade good in generations past. Today the small, crooked heirloom Chimayó chile pepper, which has a mild but robust flavor, is on the brink of extinction, although an agricultural growing project is working to revive the strain by encouraging local farmers to plant and preserve it.
HistoryChimayó's early growing methods relied on directing river water to small fields via acequias, a linked system of water ditches that in some areas of New Mexico predate the arrival of the Spaniards. Today, this same traditional method brings water to the fields for the short growing season of about 150 days. Local agriculture centers on the “three sisters” that were grown together on indigenous New Mexico farms—squash, beans and corn—as well as garlic and onions, and wild greens called quelites or lamb's quarters. Growers also cultivate treasured fruit orchards of apple, peaches and apricot trees, and harvest wild piñon, or pine nuts.
Spanish settlers brought pigs and sheep with them, and the tradition of matanzas (community gatherings surrounding the butchering of a pig) continues to this day. Chile, combined with all these food stuffs, has created a rustic New Mexico cuisine known for its surprising complexity and unique flavors.
Red or Green. Authentic ChimayóIn food preparation today, large and small chile varieties find their way into everything from soups, stews, breads, jams and even sweets. Chimayó authentic foods that every visitor should taste include homemade tamales, tortas (egg patties), hand-formed yellow, white or blue corn tortillas, posole (hominy stew), and enchiladas filled with beef, chicken or cheese.
No visit to Chimayó is complete without answering the State Question: “Red or green?” Referring to different sauces, made with chiles at different stages of ripeness, one reply might be "Which is hotter?" Adventurous diners might also ask for a serving of both, called “Christmas” because of the combination of colors. Nothing cools the heat of a chile like a honey-soaked sopaipilla, and these lightly fried dough pockets are a sweet way to complete your New Mexico culinary experience. Stuffed with meat and vegetables, sopaipillas also become a main dish, usually smothered with that ever-present red or green chile sauce.