In between a little faux feuding and bragging rights to the finest chile in the country, Pueblo is seriously upping its game in getting its hugely popular Pueblo Green Chile the national attention it deserves.
A ramping up of egos started during the 2014 Super Bowl, when Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, in his bet with Seattle’s mayor, Ed Murray, offered up dishes of green chile from Denver restaurants. During the kerfuffle, Pueblo officials fancifully interjected themselves pointing out that the green chile dishes Hancock was referring to were chiles mass-produced from New Mexico.
Their own Pueblo chilies, they maintained, are superior, grown with fresh Rocky Mountain waters in a climate of warm days and cool Pueblo nights, an ambrosial recipe for a tastier product. The Pueblo chile, the Mirasol chile, is indeed known for its smoky flavor and meaty texture, and that they grow up toward the sun, unlike other chiles. The name Mirasol means "looking at the sun" in Spanish.
What did New Mexicans think of the challenge? New Mexico corners the market on chilies (the Hatch chilies), so they didn’t blink. Undaunted, Pueblans did not let go. They put on their marketing hats, got a USDA grant to brand and market the Pueblo Green Chile, and designed a trademarked logo. They unveiled the packaging at the 2015 Chile & Frijoles Festival presented by Loaf 'N Jug Sept. 25-27.
The festival takes over Pueblo's Union Avenue Historic Commercial District and runs for one half-mile, with spicy novelties such as green chile ice cream sundaes, chile-infused chocolate, and competitions to see who can produce the best individual and commercial green chili.
Uniting Local Chile Producers
The USDA grant funds were also aimed at gathering together all of Pueblo’s small farmers to help them meet contractual volumes for large chain stores. The funds also will go toward building a path to agritourism for the county’s 15 farms, all of which are within biking distance of one another. A brochure with a map of the various farms is in the works along with road signage designating the various farms.
“It permanently anchors the Pueblo chile as a product in the consumer’s eyes, bringing dollars from outside economies into the local economy,” says Chris Markuson. director of economic development and geographic information systems.
“We aren’t known nationwide. We can’t ship our stuff nationwide because we sell out of it every year. It’s that popular. So, of course, we want to help the farmers out in whatever way we can.”
During the excitement, it made sense to Markuson to use the colorful Pueblo chile plants to landscape the courthouse, which has become a bona fide hit with locals.
“They’re cruising,” Markuson said of the plants in August 2015. “They are going on 3 feet tall. Some have chiles that are 8 to 10 inches in size, and a few of them are starting to get red. Soon we will have people starting to pick because the farms are a couple of weeks behind us.”
With the festival and many family-owned restaurants that serve chile-flavored meals year-round, Pueblo is fast becoming a foodie town with an added punch — a special place not only to dine but also to understand the real meaning of “farm to table”.