In spite of higher costs for fuel and fertilizer and the difficulties of finding enough labor to hand pick what is being called a healthy crop of enchanted New Mexico Hatch green chili peppers, harvest is getting underway south of Socorro, a welcome development for farmers and consumers.

"We live for this time of year," says Susana Lopez-Manzilla, a farm laborer in Las Cruces who says she often waits in line every morning during harvest season to catch a ride to chili fields across Southern New Mexico. "It's not just a time for work but a time to celebrate a food that has made New Mexico famous."

For the latest on southwest agriculture, please check out Southwest Farm Press Daily and receive the latest news right to your inbox.

Famous indeed. In spite of growing competition, mostly from south of the border in Chihuahua and Durango, New Mexico chili, especially the varieties that grow around Hatch, New Mexico, just south of Caballo Lake, is the unofficial king of crops in the Land of Enchantment. Known far and wide for its unique “New Mexico” flavor, Hatch chili peppers are roasted at roadside stands and parking lots of supermarkets all across the state and to expanding markets in Arizona and Texas.