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Issue: April 1, 2010

Yes, there are mild chiles in addition to hot chiles.

Q. A few weeks ago I read your article in the Albuquerque Journal about the hottest chile. I'm more interested in mild chiles, I like the flavor but not the heat. I have tried a very mild jalapeno and liked it. Are there other varieties of chile for me?

Suzanna D.

Belen, NM

A. I think some people forget that bell peppers are a type of chile that is very mild. However, there are other varieties of chiles with their own particular flavors to consider.

There are other types of mild capsicum plants (the genus for chiles). Poblano chiles (also called ancho), pimiento, sweet banana peppers, and mild jalapeno peppers ()are some for which you can often find seed and sometimes plants in the nursery. TAM jalapeno has a little heat while Delicious and Dulce jalapenos have no heat at all. All these have their own unique flavors to contribute to foods, but without much of the heat expected of other chiles.

When it comes to chiles from New Mexico, there is an often stated preference for the hotter varieties, but you are not alone in wanting milder chiles. Milder New Mexico chiles (bred in New Mexico released by New Mexico State University) include NuMex R. Naky, NuMex Conquistador ("no heat" variety), NuMex 6-4 and Heritage NuMex 6-4, NuMex Sweet (low heat, paprika-type chile). These may be varieties that you will choose to grow and eat for their chile flavor with much less heat.

It is important to remember that wilting as the chile pods develop can increase the heat in some of the milder varieties, so consistent irrigation is important. Another important chile fact is that the heat is in the placenta (veins to which the seed are attached). The placenta is located at the top of the pod and runs down the pod some. Removing the veins reduces the heat in mild and hot varieties. With this knowledge and by careful selection of varieties you can have your milder chiles. This information allows you to choose hotter parts of a chile for members of your family who want hotter chile, while you eat from the "bottom" end of the chile which is milder. An excellent source of information about chiles is the Chile Pepper Institute at http://www.chilepepperinstitute.org/.

Whether you like it mild or hot, there is a chile for you. Enjoy a special New Mexico treasure - chile.

For more gardening information, visit the NMSU Extension publications World Wide Web site at http://www.cahe.nmsu.edu/pubs/_h or http://aces.nmsu.edu/pubs/periodicals.html

Send your gardening questions to:

Yard and Garden, ATTN: Dr. Curtis Smith
NMSU Cooperative Extension Service
9301 Indian School Road, NE, Suite 112
Albuquerque, NM 87112

Curtis W. Smith, Ph.D., is an Extension Horticulture Specialist with New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service. New Mexico State University is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer and educator.