When does autumn truly begin?
The calendar traditionally has the season revving up, equinox-style, during the third week in September, while some folks pin the season's start when back-to-school sales kick off or Labor Day Weekend arrives.
But fans of a certain product grown in Hatch, New Mexico know that fall finds its first footing when one sniffs a fiery batch of green chile tumbling in a hot roaster.
When the roasting shall start depends on a few things, including the roasting station's schedule, but something Southern Californians may depend upon is this: El Rey Farms will begin to sell sacks of chile in the first part of August from the parking lot of La Puente High School.
It's tradition, is all, and a tasty one, too. In fact, SoCalers have looked to El Rey as a source of trucked-in chile goodness since 1970.
How to start? You head for El Rey's online HQ, where you choose mild, medium, hot, extra hot, and extra extra hot chile peppers, or the "double X," which El Rey advises "is too hot for most people to eat."
Whatever your pleasure, the pods are renowned for their flavor and depth.
What to do, where to go and what to see
Two things to know? Ordering is now open for 2016, and you should choose from the selected dates, as to when you'll pick up your green chile. Date one is Saturday, Aug. 5, and the final outing is Saturday, Sept. 10. Note that not every Saturday in that window is scheduled as a pick-up date, so peruse what's available.
Also? You can pick whether you'll want your peppers roasted there or not. Some fans take them home fresh, and roast them a few at a time, while others get the whole sack fired up in La Puente before stowing them in the freezer.
True, it is a Land of Enchantment icon, the Hatch chile, but Californians have a sweet spot for the stuff.
And, true, we've been saying "fans" of the pepper, when everyone in New Mexico, and beyond, call buffs of Hatch chile "chileheads," with deep affection.
Are you a chilehead? Best order now, pick your level of heat, and decide if you want roasted or unroasted. And then keep your sniffer to the wind, for that first autumn-awesome aroma, the fragrance that can only spring from chile tumbling in a large open-air roaster.