KUT’s Kate McGee posed a question in a story today that many of us ask at some point during our lives in Austin: Why does everybody go nuts for Hatch peppers in August?
It’s not just the peppers themselves. Grocery stores sell hundreds of Hatch-related products that have only grown in number (and weirdness) in recent years. (In my Facebook livestream at noon today, I’m going to try some Hatch lime sandwich cookies from Central Market.)
McGee asked some good questions to the folks at the New Mexico Department of Agriculture and Central Market that get to the truth — savvy, targeted marketing equals higher sales for both the farmers and the grocers — but even though many Austinites groan and moan about Hatch taking over stores this time of year, I think many of them enjoy the excitement that comes with trying, say, Hatch shredded cheese or Hatch beer.
I used to be a Hatch complainer until I tried to look at the craziness from an outsider’s perspective. What if I wasn’t so used to this happening every year and walked into a store and saw all these products that no one else in the country gets to try?
In the back of my mind, I also remember a taste test video we did way back in 2010 with the founders of Austin Slow Burn, Jill and Kevin Lewis. (Yes, I’m about 39 weeks pregnant in this video.)
Jill and Kevin could discern the different taste between the Hatch and regular Anaheim chiles almost immediately. They relished the complex flavors found in the Hatch and showed not a single ounce of cynicism about its popularity, even though they spent so much of their lives promoting the wide, varied world of capsaicin.
Sadly, Jill passed away in 2013, but I think of her every time Hatch season rolls around. Kevin continues to run Austin Slow Burn, whose products you’ll find year-round in countless area grocery stores.
Are you over Hatch or do you still get a kick out of seeing what kinds of products grocery stores will release each year?