Chile (capsicum annum L.) and frijoles (pinto beans of the phaseolus vulgaris family), New Mexico’s state vegetables, are a unique part of the New Mexico diet. The pinto bean, along with maize (corn) and squash, has been a staple of the Pueblo Indian diet since pre-historic times. The early Spanish settlers brought the chile plant to New Mexico from the Valley of Mexico, where the Aztecs had cultivated the plant for centuries. Chile is a pungent pepper which is harvested in the early fall, toasted, peeled and served as a delicious stew, stuffed with cheese or made into a favorite recipe. When the chile ripens it turns bright red. It is then strung (chile ristras) and hung out to dry. There are as many ways to prepare red chile, as there are claims of who harvests the mildest or the hottest. New Mexico State University can take credit for developing a variety of strains. The use of frijoles, chile and corn has given the state a distinctive cuisine, which can only be considered “Native New Mexican.”
The combination of the vitamin-rich chile and the protein-rich frijole offers natives and visitors alike a memorable dining experience. In 1965, the legislative debate over adoption of the vegetable centered over the argument that the two vegetables were inseparable so both the chile and frijole were adopted as the official vegetables.