FARMINGTON – It’s a hot debate, at least on social media, as chile fans in New Mexico and Colorado defend the honor of their state’s spicy agricultural products following an insult from Colorado’s governor about the quality of New Mexico chiles.
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis threw some heat July 6 when he declared on his Facebook page that New Mexico’s chiles are inferior to Colorado chiles grown in the toasty climes of Pueblo.
Hatch chile fans were quick to answer back, while some of Polis’ constituents on his well-used Facebook page called for a chili cookoff featuring governors from both states at the next Taste of Colorado festival.
But will that cookoff happen? Festival spokesperson Cary B. Krukowski of The Event Group said via email, “I don’t know about it but I love the idea!”
Polis did challenge New Mexico's governor to a "chili" tasteoff in Trinadad, to which Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham responded, "'Chili? Are we in Texas?"
"We dont just spell it right — we do it better! #NewMexicoTRUE," Lujan Grisham tweeted July 10.
Some Hatch partisans in New Mexico may be upset about Polis' comment, but not Preston Mitchell of the online business The Hatch Chile Store. While fervent in his love for the local chile, Mitchell said Hatch chile doesn’t need him to stand up for it.
“We don’t believe we need to brag about our chile being better. We don’t need to pick fights with our neighbors,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell, who is also on the Hatch Chile Association board, an industry group that promotes Hatch chiles and protects the brand from pretenders, said consumers love Hatch chiles and the product speaks for itself. He said he wishes the growers of Pueblo chiles good luck and good fortune.
Mitchell said the designation of a Hatch chile is like that of a Napa Valley wine — it’s a chile that comes from a specific region. In this case, from the Hatch Valley in Doña Ana County.
The Hatch chile will be celebrated Labor Day weekend in the town of Hatch during the annual Hatch Chile Festival.
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Colorado gov disses the Hatch, Lujan Grisham fires back
“Whole Foods will stock 125,000 pounds of Pueblo Chile in Colorado, Kansas, Idaho and Utah,” Polis wrote on Facebook July 6. “New Mexico stores will unfortunately not be offering the best chile and will instead keep offering inferior New Mexico chile.”
New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has been firing tweets off about Polis’ post, but spokesman Tripp Stelnicki released her official response.
“If Pueblo chile were any good, surely it would have been on national shelves before now,” Lujan Grisham said. “But if Gov. Polis wants to go chile to chile, I assure him New Mexico can bring the heat.
“New Mexico Hatch chile is, has always been and will always be the greatest in the world,” Lujan Grisham continued. “It’s very sportsmanlike of Whole Foods to give an inferior chile a chance, but most importantly I’m glad to know that they’ll still be carrying Hatch chile so customers around the country can continue to enjoy the best of the best.”
The Whole Foods media team confirmed via email the Colorado chiles will not be on the shelves in New Mexico.
“Whole Foods Market stores in the Rocky Mountain region (including Idaho, Utah, Colorado and Kansas) will be selling Pueblo chiles, with the exception of Whole Foods Market stores throughout New Mexico and in El Paso which will exclusively be selling Hatch and New Mexican chiles,” the grocery chain stated. “We’re excited to offer locally grown produce and happy to celebrate chile season with our guests across the region.”
Colorado’s governor, a prolific Facebook poster, didn’t limit himself to culinary matters.
Other topics on the Colorado governor’s page — drawing various levels of outrage or agreement among Coloradans — included a post about gray wolves, which quickly devolved into name calling and a discussion about the improper use of gerbils, and a post about the benefits of bats. The demise of “Mad Magazine” was also discussed.
Rivalry more than skin deep
The love of Pueblo chiles runs deep in Colorado, where in February state Rep. Daneya Esgar appeared in a Facebook live getting a “Death Before Hatch” tattoo on her left shoulder. People who donated to her campaign got to vote on which of four tattoo designs she would eventually get, according to an article in the Pueblo Chieftain. She also championed a bill to create a Pueblo chile Colorado license plate.
New Mexico launched its chile-centric license plate in July 2017. By March of 2018 the New Mexico Motor Vehicle Division had issued nearly 140,000 “Chile Capital of the World” license plates, according to the Daily Times archives.