Two New Green Chile Pepper Varieties Developed at Chile Pepper Institute in Las Cruces, N.M.

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Las Cruces, Dubbed Chile Capital of the World, Boasts Rich Culinary History that Makes the City a Tourism Hot Spot

Washington has its apples, Idaho has its potatoes, Florida has its oranges and New Mexico has its chile. Contributing more than $300 million annually to the state's economy, chile is a niche crop that shows no sign of loosing popularity or heat. In fact, the New Mexico Chile Pepper Institute (CPI), located in the city of Las Cruces in southern New Mexico, has recently developed improvements to two popular varieties of chile peppers -- the NuMex Heritage Big Jim and NuMex Heritage 6-4.

The new varieties were developed in response to concerns from local growers that the current green chile varieties were loosing flavor. The research and work at the CPI resulted in numerous improvements that include 20 percent more flavor compounds than the old Big Jim and 6-4 varieties, and will produce a better yield for farmers. Seeds for the improved varieties will be available in January 2009.

About the Chile Pepper Institute

The CPI is part of the College of Agriculture and Home Economics at New Mexico State University and provides the latest research-based information on chile for growers and processors. Founded in 1992, the CPI is dedicated to educating the world on chile, preserving wild and domestic chile species and disseminating the latest research on chile growing, preserving and disease and pest prevention. For visitors, the CPI also includes the Chile Pepper Institute Chile Shop, which features a large selection of seeds, books, posters and other merchandise for purchase.

Among some of the research conducted at the institute was the discovery of the world's hottest chile pepper. Paul Bosland, co-founder and director of the CPI, was responsible for finding the world's hottest chile pepper, the Bhut Jolokia, and in the fall of 2006, the Guinness Book of Records confirmed Bosland's discovery. Whereas a typical New Mexico green chile contains about 1,500 Scoville Heat Units (SHU) and an average jalapeno measures at about 10,000 SHUs, the Bhut Jolokia, at 1,001,304 SHUs, is nearly twice as hot as Red Savina, the chile pepper variety it replaced as the world's hottest. Discoveries like these are not rare for the CPI. The record-holder for the world's largest chile pepper is a specimen of the 'NuMex Big Jim' variety that was developed in 1975. The record-holder was grown near Hatch, but the variety was developed at the institute. More information about the CPI can be found at http://www.chilepepperinstitute.org .

More About Chile in Las Cruces

As a tourism destination, Las Cruces truly offers something for everyone, ranging from the chile connoisseur to the avid adventurer. The question "red or green?" may conjure up images of traffic lights, but in Las Cruces it is an essential question that fires up one's appetite. Local cuisine would not be complete without chile, and Las Cruces is home to a plethora of traditional restaurants that offer authentic New Mexican cuisine, featuring red or green chile for those that can stand the heat.

In addition, each year hundreds of visitors flock to the region for the famed Hatch Chile Festival to sample some of the best chile around. The annual festival began more than 35 years ago in nearby Hatch, located approximately 40 miles north of Las Cruces, by local chile farmers as a celebration of the fall chile harvest. Today, people from around the country come to the festival to get their fresh green chile supply for the winter.

Las Cruces is also home to other chile destinations, including the New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum, where visitors can experience a tour of the museum and even learn about chile hands-on by taking a salsa-making class, the U-Pick Garden at Lyle's Family Farms and the Biad Chili Company, where special tours are conducted by appointment to see first-hand how chile goes from the fields to the stores.

To the unfamiliar tongue and untrained nose, chile may appear to be just another vegetable. With one trip to Las Cruces, visitors will soon learn that chile is more than a condiment; it is a cultural and culinary symbol. For more information on Las Cruces and its chile offerings and events, visit http://www.lascrucescvb.org , or contact Chris Faivre of the Las Cruces Convention & Visitors Bureau at (575) 541-2150 or cfaivre@las-cruces.org.

Nestled in the Mesilla Valley between the Rio Grande River and Organ Mountains, Las Cruces, New Mexico is quickly becoming a popular southwestern destination. Visitors can experience 72 holes of spectacular year-round golf and world-class Mexican food. Las Cruces blends a unique variety of special events, attractions, culture and historical sites, as well as superb weather, with 350 days of sunshine per year. For more information on all Las Cruces has to offer, contact the Las Cruces Convention & Visitors Bureau at (575) 541-2150 or visit http://www.lascrucescvb.org .

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Chris Faivre

Jessica Trumble
Rick Johnson & Company
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