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Hot Conference Topic: NM First State With Official Aroma, Chile Peppers?


Tuesday, February 7, 2023   

Can a state have an official aroma? That topic will on attendees' minds when the annual New Mexico Chile Conference is held in Las Cruces today. The one-day conference will feature nearly 20 different speakers and presentations.

Stephanie Walker, New Mexico State University professor and conference chair said because the chile pepper is New Mexico's signature crop, it is near and dear to everyone's heart.

"We have chile peppers on our license plates, we have chile peppers in our artwork, they're attempting to pass a resolution through our State Legislature right now to make the smell of roasting green chiles the state aroma," she said with a chuckle.

Bill Soules, a Democratic state senator and former teacher and elementary school principal, introduced the chile pepper aroma resolution after a conversation with a class of fifth grade students in his district. New Mexico would become the first state in the nation with an official aroma if the measure is approved.

Walker said the chile conference will include talks about consumer preferences in taste, world-wide trends and challenges in production, including a discussion about pest control during the state's continued drought.

"As we get deeper into climate change, in many cases certain pests and weeds really get an advantage from these changing conditions and what we can do to kind-of up the ante in battling these challenges," he said.

Chile peppers have been cultivated in the Rio Grande Valley for four centuries. Walker said it is not especially hard to grow the peppers, but they don't like shade. Instead, he said, they need full, blazing sun and hot weather to get the most out of their long growing season.

"It's one of the reasons New Mexico's chili tastes so great is we have all that heat stress, and sunlight stress - it really brings out the heat in our peppers," Walker said.

About 60% of the U.S. chile pepper crop is grown in New Mexico. In 1996, the New Mexico State Legislature passed a House Joint Memorial declaring "Red or Green?" as the official state question.

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