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Fresh Picks: Chiles

Each week, we’ll tell you the freshest thing to taste from Colorado farmers and chefs.

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The scent of earthy, charred, roasty green chiles wafting from Front Range parking lots and street corners is a sure sign of fall. Although Hatch or New Mexico chiles get much of the glory, there are many types of peppers worth piling into your shopping bag. This week, we look at how to maximize the fiery season.

Find fresh picks every week for tips on which ingredient you should be growing, buying, cooking, and tasting—all season long.

Chiles | Family: Solanaceae

From the Farmer: Natalie Condon of Isabelle Farm in Lafayette loves the versatility of the Corno di Toro, which is similar in shape to an Anaheim. “It’s easy to peel and stuff,” she says. She uses peppers for all meals of the day, but she especially likes serving two roasted chiles with eggs and a little pico de gallo.

Good for You: Like many members of the nightshade family, chiles are low in calories, virtually fat free, and are good sources of vitamins A, C, and K. Although green chiles are picked before they can fully ripen (and are thus often less spicy), they still contain capsaicin, a compound that creates an endorphin rush—a positive response for the body that can help manage inflammation caused by diseases such as arthritis. Amounts of capsaicin increase as chiles ripen, and thus the heat quotient usually also rises.

At the Market: Follow your nose to the nearest roaster—that’s where you’ll find the freshest, toastiest chiles. (If you’re looking for organic chiles, make sure you go straight to a reputable organic farm.) Condon suggests bringing a cooler with you and immediately putting the roasted chiles on ice to reduce the risk of food-borne illness. If you buy a large quantity, divide it into smaller portions when you get home for easier use down the road. Condon freezes two or three chiles at a time so she can quickly defrost them while cooking.

Around Town: Here in Denver, chile fans can always turn to staples like Bones’ green chile ramen and Snooze’s roasted poblano hollandaise on the chilaquiles Benedict. But with chile season in full swing, look at menus closely and you’ll start to see the fruit show up in all sorts of places. Three of our favorite bites are the Hatch chile caramels from Peak Candy Company, the green chile posole at Blackbelly Market, and Habit Doughnut Dispensary’s “Notorious P” green chile fritter. The latter treat, which vaguely resembles an apple fritter in shape, is made with Habit’s brioche dough, cornmeal, Hatch chiles, and fresh corn. The finishing touch is a brush of brown butter.

In Your Kitchen: Blackbelly chef Hosea Rosenberg may have made a name for himself in Boulder, but he grew up in New Mexico, where chiles are a way of life. Channel his love of the capsicum by following his recipe for New Mexico Green Chile and Tater Tots on page 14 of 5280: The Cookbook. Chiles are so versatile that they offer a quick way to add a pop of flavor. You can fold chopped green chiles into just about anything: pancakes, muffins, cream cheese, soufflés, omelets, breads, hash browns, burgers, or meatballs. Or you can go big and follow Rick Baylessrecipe for shrimp chile rellenos grilled in corn husks.

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