Tess on the Town: Get your roasted peppers

If you want to get fresh-from-the-field roasted chiles this season, you better start hustling.

Temperatures are flirting with freezing, and the local crops won’t last much longer.

Of course, most farm vendors pick ahead, roast and freeze the peppers, but there is nothing like the aroma of just-picked roasted chile peppers.

The degree of a pepper’s heat is registered on the Scoville scale, with a sweet bell pepper being the baseline of zero for heat. On the far end of that scale is the newly recognized Trinidad Moruga Scorpion, which rates as the hottest pepper on Earth. Native to the Caribbean island of Trinidad and Tobago, the shriveled scorcher rates 600,000 to 2 million on the Scoville scale, according to the University of New Mexico, a recognized authority in peppers.

Previously, India’s Naga Jolokia or the “Ghost Pepper” broke the record at 800,000 to 1,041,000 on the scale. Some names you might recognize are the previous record holders, habanero or its close cousin the Scotch bonnet, at 100,000 to 350,000.

The pepper harvest in the Grand Valley is a bit tamer, in comparison, although there are some habaneros on the vine.

A sampling of pepper varieties at farms in the Grand Valley:

■ Kokopelli Farm and Produce, Interstate 70, exit 46: Big Jim, the Numex Big Jim is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the producer of the largest chile pods ever grown, with specimens in excess of a foot long not unknown. Because of its size, this aromatic, flavorful medium-heat pepper is great for chile rellenos and for making pepper wreaths or ristras.

■ DeVries Farm Market, 3149 C Road: Italian, Moscow, poblano, jalapeño, Sandia and Big Jim. These varieties range from the Italian, which is big and meaty without the heat to the Moscow, which is very hot, to the habanero, one of the hottest peppers in the world. The Sandia has a mild to medium heat, and it’s often used raw for a nice crunch in salsa.

Betty at DeVries uses gloves to handle the tiny habanero, or even the jalapeño, for that matter. Her favorite is the Italian.

■ Mount Garfield Fruit and Vegetables, 3371 U.S. Highway 6, and Taylor Farms, Kmart parking lot on North Avenue: College, Big Jim and New Mexico hot. The College, a variety of Anaheim pepper is low on the heat scale and popular with growers in Mesa County.

■ Okagawa, 2889 C Road: College, Big Jim, New Mexico hot, Barker’s and Sonora. The Barker’s, the hottest New Mexico-type pepper, is an heirloom variety with thin skin that ripens to a bright red color. Its heat increases as the pepper comes redder. The Sonora is an Anaheim variety with very mild flavor and it also turns red as it ripens.

I usually don’t include recipes, they are food columnist Dixie Burmeister’s purview, and besides, my cooking skills are kind of spotty. But this simple and popular assemblage by a vendor at the downtown ANB Bank Farmers Market (the booth with the long lines) caught my eye.

Place warm roasted peppers on a flour tortilla.

Add a squirt of sour cream, chopped onions, tomatoes and cilantro; and sprinkle with grated cheese of your choice.

Wrap and enjoy.

ANSWER TO QUIZ: The tangerine, Seville orange hybrid cultivated in 1902 near Oran, Algeria, by Father Clement Rodier, is the clementine.

QUOTE: “Ever since Eve started it all by offering Adam the apple, woman’s punishment has been to supply a man with food then suffer the consequences when it disagrees with him.” — Writer Helen Rowland (1876–1950)

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