If you stop in a restaurant and order a spicy Southwestern dish and are asked if you want red or green, then chances are good you're in New Mexico.

It's a common question at restaurants throughout the state and refers specifically to whether you prefer green or red chili peppers (or sauce) with your meal. The customary and accepted response to the question is usually either green, red or Christmas, the later meaning you prefer both.

What this means, as if you didn't know, is that when it comes to chili peppers, New Mexico is King. It's the state's favorite, and almost its biggest, farm product. Only New Mexico's famous pecan and alfalfa crops keep pace with chili peppers when it comes to popularity.

Once a closely guarded secret, word has gotten out, especially about the green Hatch chili pepper grown in the southern part of the state, and tens of thousands of brand new chili pepper fans have cropped up outside of the enchanted borders of New Mexico.

"The Hatch green chili is growing in popularity far and wide," said Chris Biad of Biad Chili Company of Messilla Park, New Mexico. "This year, with the help of a dear friend, we sent Vice President Joe Biden some roasted green chili, and last year we sent samples to various members of Congress."

It must have worked. For the first time ever, a pair of Washington, DC, grocers ordered green Hatch chili peppers this month and actually roasted them in front of their store. The word is, they sold like hot cakes.

"The Hatch green chili is growing in popularity rapidly, and demand is growing," Biad said.

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Along with his brother Mike, the family-owned business wholesales large volumes of smoked green chili peppers to a number of customers in states across the nation. It all started when senior members of the Biad family picked up roots in Brooklyn and headed west to New Mexico where they settled in Hatch and started farming in pursuit "of the American dream."

"We are well into harvest now and for most growers, it looks like a very good year," Biad said. "We were forced to use groundwater this year instead of river water for irrigation, but while it has been more costly, it has helped in terms of timely watering of the crop. For most growers, I would say, it is turning out to be a productive year."