Monday, September 29, 2008

Hanging Chiles in the Land of Enchantment

New Mexico visitors are accustomed to seeing red chiles that decorate adobe buildings in the form of 'ristras,' as they twist and twirl in gentle breezes. But there's more to strings of hanging chiles than decoration. Throughout the rural countryside between Santa Fe and Taos, chile growers know the best way to dry their chiles for use in cooking is by tying them together on long strands, and then allowing them to hang until they wrinkle and shrink under the state's intense sun rays.

For farmers with crops that yield a dozen or even 16 bushels, vertical strings may not sufficiently accommodate the massive quantities of chiles that must be dried. Clotheslines morph into drying apparatus and random pieces of rope strung below house eaves offer extra drying space. During the early fall harvest season chiles simultaneously become revered cooking ingredient and integral decorative element throughout New Mexican farm land.

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