Museum of New Mexico Press


The Chile Chronicles

Tales of a New Mexico Harvest

Carmella Padilla, Author
Jack Parsons, Photographer

The Chile Chronicles is a colorful visual and cultural tour through the fields, homes, and markets of New Mexico; exploring the lives and livelihoods that depend on this famous food. It documents twelve farms and farm families and the trials and triumphs of those who both depend upon and preserve this unique way of life. Just as the grape is central to the Napa and Loire valleys, the chile is inseparable from the landscape of New Mexico. Long chile ristras, the smell of roasting chile, lush irrigated fields dotted with red, spicy hot posole, and green chile stew continue to attract newcomers and sustain a four-century tradition that is still going strong. New Mexico chile is enjoyed and savoured nationally. It is a $300-million industry that involves science, economics, and enterprise. It is this fascinating tension between culture and commerce, history, and progress that nurtures the chile phenomenon. With over 175 color photographs, The Chile Chronicles takes the reader on a splendid tour along the Rio Grande Valley, from the vast pepper fields of the south to the boutique chile farms of the north, all the while tying the present chile boom to the traditions that root it to New Mexico's past.


Beginning with the role that chiles play in her own childhood, Carmella Padilla tells the surprisingly elaborate story of the chile, that irresistible and unforgettable flavor of the West. Originating in South America, this exotic plant gradually made its way to the New Mexican countryside, where it became an integral part of the culture. We meet the people who still depend on the chile for their livelihood, from the growers and harvesters who have pledged to keep their family heritage alive, to the scientists whose ongoing goal is to produce a richer color or easier-to-peel skin. Through vivid photographs and flowing text, we explore the life of a chile plant, finally understanding why it hurts when we bite into one, and of course, debate the ago-old question: red or green?
-The Bloomsbury Review


"There is no doubt that this is the best book ever written on chiles in New Mexico. Padilla, along with photographer Jack Parsons, have done a superb job of documenting the history, cultural heritage, and horticulture of chiles in the state, plus profiling the farmers who grow them. This is not only solid information; many of the stories in the book are moving as they recount the love and devotion engendered by New Mexico's most famous crop. But the photography is superb, documenting the varieties, growing methods, harvest scenes, and the countryside that adjoins the growing operations, including the spectacular scenes of the Rio Grande....I'm going to rate the book as highly recommended and urge every true lover of chile to buy a copy."
-Fiery Foods

Trim: 9.75" x 10"

Pages: 132

Illustrations: 175 color photographs

Folklore/Folk Arts

New Mexico



Paperback $19.95