Hatch green chiles sold in Carlsbad, despite COVID-19 labor shortage

Green chile peppers arrived in Carlsbad a couple weeks early this year, meaning locals got their fix for the spicy delicacy as early as mid-July.

Heavy rains in the early summer weather meant the iconic New Mexico pepper could be produced earlier in the Hatch Valley and sent east across the southern portion of the state to the Cavern City.

At Albertsons Market the annual harvest brings hundreds of products to the grocery store for shoppers to choose from.

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In the deli, there’s green chile in the chicken stew, cheeseburgers and quesadillas.

Over in the bakery, hungry shoppers can choose from green chile infused cheese bread, bagels, tortillas, even apple pie.

The store’s meat market sports a green chile bacon, kabobs and an a crab salad with a kick.

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Albertsons offers a variety of products featuring Hatch green chiles, Oct. 6, 2021 in Carlsbad.

Store Director David Beaty said it’s all about embracing what makes southern New Mexico unique and what the region can offer the rest of the country.

He said Albertsons parent company the United Family recently began offering the peppery products at its stores in Texas and as far away as Idaho.

From about 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., the store fire roasts the peppers fresh outside in large metal tumblers, and customers line up eagerly in the parking lot to buy 20 pound cases.

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Many will freeze the crop and serve it up throughout the year, crafting tasty morsels like green chile enchiladas or simply wrapping them in a tortilla with a slice of asadero cheese.

Beaty said the store’s goal is to reach $3 million in sales this year in its produce section alone, a goal he said he’s confident will be reached as Carlsbadians clamor for the acclaimed cuisine.

Hatch green chile peppers are roasted for customers, Aug. 6, 2021 at Albertsons in Carlsbad.

“I think this is our most popular seasonal event all year. This chile has been a long time going in New Mexico, but they’ve rolled into Texas. They’re even doing it in Boise, Idaho. It’s huge in all of our stores,” Beaty said.

“I think it’s the flavor of that pepper. I hear it’s because of the rich soil in that part of New Mexico. People just love hatch green chiles.”