When July and August roll around, the high-summer pleasures of the garden begin to dominate the produce aisle, from tawny-hued heirloom tomatoes to sweet corn to oversized, oh-so-juicy watermelons.
One nearly mythical fruit that's craved by many, but not seen widely, also starts to fill the heads of heat-forward fruit fans around July, if not the produce aisles: the Hatch chile.
This isn't any chile, or chili pepper, if you prefer, but the fabled product of the Southern New Mexico town, a place that foodies across the country, and beyond, regular summon in any conversation involving posole or enchiladas or winter stews that require some kick.
Hatch, however, is a long drive from Southern California — you could do it in a very full day, maybe, if you had some friends to trade off with, driving-wise — which is where El Rey Farms comes into the picture.
What to do, where to go and what to see
The Whittier-based company has been delivering Hatch chile to chile-craving Southern Californians each and every August since 1970, and that piquant tradition will continue in 2017. The order line opens up on Saturday, July 15, with pick-up dates scheduled for three Saturdays in August as well as the first Saturday in September in La Puente.
Whether you choose five pounds of Mild or 20 pounds of Extra Extra Hot, you'll want your pods roasted in a traditional roaster, a fiery, Bingo ball-like process that turns the chiles over and over directly above a source of flame. This process summons that one-of-a-kind scent and flavor known by chileheads everywhere.
If you want to roast at home, that's fine, too, but El Rey Farms will have the set-ups ready to go in La Puente on your designated pick-up date.
There are seven types of fresh chile to choose from, of varying "this is nicely warm on my tongue" to "wowowowowow" heat levels. So choose carefully, or throw caution, if you're in a caution-throwing mood. But Hatch=heat, a plus in the eyes of many chile mavens who await August like some people anticipate the holidays.
Other places around Southern California, including Bristol Farms and Ralph's, have also sold and roasted Hatch green chile in years gone by, so check in with your favorite market to see if it plans to fire up the roasters around the middle of August.