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Hatch-area red chile harvest ramps up

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HATCH – It’s that time of year, when the New Mexico chile harvest shifts from green to red peppers thanks to the onset of fall, which prompts the biological change in the plants.

Nora Basaldua, whose family runs a roadside produce stand in Garfield about 10 miles north of Hatch, told the Las Cruces Sun News that her eight-member family grew six acres of chile this year and the crop was “very good.”

The green chile harvest wound down for the most part around the end of September and picking the red chile is expected to last several more weeks.

Pickers in the Mesilla Valley harvest the area’s red chile crop. The green chile harvest wound down at the end of September. (Journal File)

Pickers in the Mesilla Valley harvest the area’s red chile crop. The green chile harvest wound down at the end of September. (Journal File)

Most area farmers said the harvest season started with near-perfect conditions in early August that, a month later, were soured somewhat by a persistent rainstorm that covered the region for days. It sparked some chile-ruining disease.

Salem farmer Jerry Franzoy said some of his peppers had blotches and some leaves died – problems from the rain. He estimated about 3 percent to 5 percent of the crop was ruined.

Still, Franzoy said other areas saw less damage and the quality of the chile crop in the Las Uvas Valley, southwest of Hatch, was especially good.

A federal report from Sept. 29 indicated the green chile harvest was about 95 percent complete, slightly ahead of a five-year average for this point in the season.

Most of the crop – 82 percent – was deemed to be in “good” condition, according to the report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. A more-recent report was not available because of the government shutdown.

Chile farmer Chris Biad, who grows chile near Las Cruces and Hatch, said the late-season rains caused some disease trouble. A bigger impact was that the rain delayed harvesting, cutting shorter an already-brief window for green chile.

“By the time we were able to get into the field and pick it again, it was red,” he told the Sun News.

Still, Biad said the year has been solid: “It was a good season, overall – good quality.”

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