We recently asked our members and supporters to send in their chile stories, and Brooke Pickrell of Ann Arbor, MI, shares her fascinating experience of growing the plants in the middle of Midwest winter (yes, it's possible!).
Pickrell, an Arizona born and raised who moved to Michigan in 2011, grew up eating and loving roasted green chiles. "Their smell and their taste are forever in my genes," she said. In fact, she added, it was the only thing that didn't make her nauseous when she was pregnant with her now 4-year-old son. As a church pastor, Pickrell moved around quite often and was living in Santa Fe, NM, at the time.
"Although I was filled with all sorts of anxieties before his birth, the smell would remind me of home and helped me feel safe. I also have fond memories of buying roasted green chiles with my mom in Tucson. The smell is incredibly comforting for me," she said.
This past winter, she found herself craving for roasted chiles so badly but couldn't find what she was looking for in Ann Arbor so she decided to try planting them herself. Pickrell bought seeds of Chile Colorado, Chile Negro, and Chimayo Chiles from NS/S and started them in her basement.
"I was skeptical that they would grow out here as there can be little heat even in the summer," she recalled, "I almost had no hope that the seeds would take, but amazingly they did."
By early May, Pickrell was able to transplant them into her raised beds outside where they flourished until late September. She said she and her family ate every single chile.
"They grew nicely and for most of the summer, we had fresh chiles to pick from the garden, roast, and eat that night with dinner or for breakfast with our eggs," she said, "We were so excited that we mostly just ate straight from the oven!" Her favorite dish is, however, homemade tostadas made from scratch and piled high with roasted green chiles. "So that every bite you smell the chiles before anything else!" she said.
Her experience, Pickrell said, should encourage all chile-lovers out there to not let their area of residence get them down.
"I thought Michigan would be too wet and not hot enough during the days, but little that I knew that the seeds I planted were incredibly resilient," she said, "This past summer was not a hot summer at all, and they still did quite well, particularly the Chimayo chiles."
This summer, Pickrell plans to tear out the grass in her front yard and put in raised beds. "We're turning it into a green chile farm, and we'll see if we can teach Michiganders a little about the breathtaking deliciousness of chiles!"
It seems Pickrell, who's been shopping at NS/S for at least 12 years, has done quite a lot to introduce Southwestern staples to her Michigan friends, "My neighbors, Terry and Leon, are hooked on tepary beans, and I just had dinner for some people where I served them mesquite delicacies and taught them a little of the wonder of this flour," she said, "It brings a little of the home I miss so much and that is in my blood, Tucson and the Sonoran Desert, into our lives here in Michigan."