Green chiles, commonly added to eggs, salsas, and chilis, are a great addition to infuse spicy heat and flavor to any dish. When choosing a green chile variety, know that size matters! The shorter the chile, the spicier it is. So, for a milder heat, choose the long, slender Anaheim pepper. For a spicier green chile, go for a short, stocky jalapeño. You can fine-tune the heat depending on how many seeds you include in the dish—the seeds are the spiciest part of the chile, so the more seeds you leave in, the spicier the dish will be. Nutritionally, chiles are rich in vitamins A, K, B2, and C, and are a good source of capsaicin, which helps to boost metabolism. So for the health of your skin, hair, immune system, metabolism, and more, spice up your next dish with some green chiles!
The most common type of green chile in the US is the glossy-skinned Anaheim pepper. These slightly curved chiles range between 4 and 10 inches in length and 1 to 2 inches in diameter. In general, the longer the chile, the milder its flavor.
Depending on where you live, you might also find Hatch green chiles, a special variety of chile from Hatch, New Mexico, similar in length and flavor to the Anaheim pepper.
Green chiles are some of the most mild peppers to enjoy. Slightly sweet and a bit tangy, with a hint of zippy black pepper flavor, green chiles take on a richer taste when roasted or grilled.
Green chiles are readily available in major supermarkets and specialty stores, such as Mexican groceries. You’ll also find a large selection at farmers’ markets. Green chiles are also available frozen and canned.
In the US, Hatch green chiles peak between August and September, and Anaheim peppers/green chiles peak between July and September, but both varieties are available all year long. In Europe, chiles are imported throughout the year from China, South America, and the US.
When choosing green chiles, remember the larger the pepper, the milder it is. This may influence your selection based on how you’re going to use chiles. Look for firm peppers with glossy skin and bright color. Avoid chiles with cracked or bruised surfaces because it indicates the chile may have gone bad.
When deciding whether to purchase organic or non-organic produce, it’s helpful to know which fruits and vegetables are most affected by pesticides. Pesticides are toxins used to kill insects, invasive plants, and fungi during the growth of produce, and are potentially dangerous to people. National and international agencies agree that prolonged exposure to specific pesticides through food consumption is a potential health risk. Additionally, some studies indicate that organic fruits and vegetables have a higher concentration of vitamins and minerals than conventionally raised produce.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is an environmental health advocacy and research organization in the United States. From cosmetics to produce, water to cleaning products, EWG provides insight regarding the impact of pesticides, manufacturing practices, and product ingredients on our health and environment. EWG produces a consumer guide ranking 48 fruits and vegetables with pesticide residue. The higher the rank, the lower the residue. In this ranking, the 12 most affected fruits and vegetables belong to the “Dirty Dozen,” and the 15 least affected are part of the “Clean Fifteen”. These lists help identify the produce that is most—and least—dramatically affected by pesticides. Green chiles rank #13 on the full EWG list, which places them close to the “Dirty Dozen” list. So opt for organic chiles whenever possible.
However, the Environmental Working Group and Yoffie Life stress that consuming conventionally grown vegetables and fruits when the organic version is unavailable or financially impossible is far better than eating none at all.
Keep fresh green chiles in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to a week.
Alternately, wash, dry, and freeze green chiles in a plastic zippered bag for up to a year. Frozen chiles often lose their natural texture but retain flavor. Consider roasting chiles first, letting them cool completely on baking sheets, and freezing them whole or chopped in freezer bags.
Keep in mind, any chile containing capsaicin might irritate sensitive skin, so wear plastic kitchen gloves when cutting raw green chiles, and thoroughly wash your hands and work surface afterward with hot, soapy water. Do not touch your eyes or face while handling! The heat of a chile is concentrated in the inner membrane. Once cut, the chemicals in the membrane transfer to the seeds.
Determine the amount of green chile seeds and veins to keep for your recipe. The more seeds, the spicier it will be. Start by cutting off the stem of the chile, and then either slice it lengthwise and remove some of the interior membrane and seeds, or simply chop up the whole chile (seeds and all).
After roasting, peel off the chile’s skin.
A fat-soluble nutrient, vitamin A is involved in the development of rhodopsin, a molecule in the eye that promotes healthy vision. Vitamin A is also responsible for promoting the immune system, cell growth, skin health, and the formation of the heart and lungs as well as other bodily organs.
Vitamin K, specifically vitamin K2, is helpful for regulating and directing dietary calcium in and out of the bones. It is also responsible for proper blood clotting and may aid in protecting the arteries from calcification.
Riboflavin is helpful for metabolism, aiding in fatty acid energy release. Vitamin B2 is also important for metabolizing proteins, ketone bodies, and carbohydrates.
This immune-system-building vitamin offers a host of benefits. Vitamin C is an important nutrient necessary for collagen production, and is essential for maintaining the integrity and function of skin and bone tissue. Vitamin C is also a powerful antioxidant, fighting free radicals and protecting the heart, kidneys, and lungs from disease. This essential nutrient, often found in large amounts in citrus fruits and raw vegetables, may play a role in reducing systolic blood pressure and heart disease risk.
Alongside sodium and chloride, potassium is an electrolyte essential for conducting electrical reactions in the body. Potassium aids proper muscle function, digestive health, and skeletal contractions.
Green chiles are rich in capsaicin, the chemical responsible for the spiciness found in any type of pepper; the hotter the pepper, the greater the amount of capsaicin. Capsaicin is useful to us because it triggers a release of endorphins in the body. Our nervous system senses the spicy heat as pain and releases endorphins to combat the pain. For this reason, capsaicinoids derived from chiles are often used in patches and ointments to relieve sore muscles. Similarly, adding chiles to your diet may help alleviate chronic pain and discomfort due to maladies such as psoriasis, arthritis, and neuropathic pain.
- There is heated debate over the proper spelling of chile. It is argued by some (including leaders at the Chile Pepper Institute at New Mexico State University) that when you spell “chile,” you’re referring to the plant and its fruit; “chili” is a spicy dish featuring chile powder or chopped chiles. However, with “chili peppers” widely advertised as both food and a musical group, this debate will likely continue.
- The Scoville Scale is a scientific rating system used to determine the level of capsaicinoids in chiles or chile products. Peppers are measured in heat units: for example, a sweet bell pepper has zero heat units, an Anaheim pepper/green chile has 500 to 2,500 heat units, and a Habanero pepper has 100,000 to 350,000 heat units.
- If a bite of chile is too hot for you, don’t drink water to ease the sting—use milk. Chile capsaicin oil doesn’t mix with water, so the heat will spread throughout your mouth. Cow’s milk and other dairy products contain casein which better relieves the burn. They also work well if you get burned while cutting chiles.