Labor Day marks the peak of the chile season each year, and this year the market for flavorful fiery peppers has never been more diverse. An ever-increasing popularity in green chile has sparked fierce competition to bring the biggest, best and the hottest to the Mile High. Peppers are marketed in various flavors, heat levels and origins which can make choosing a bushel of your own more difficult than expected. To find out which peppers are Denver’s best we stopped at D&D Produce on South Federal Blvd for the lowdown.

Dennis Deden — the owner of D&D Produce — has been roasting chiles for more than 30 years with a new outpost that opened this summer occupying the parking lot outside the Sports Authority Field compound on Federal. D&D offers a variety of peppers at this point in the season — including Fresno, jalapeno, dynamite, Pueblo and Hatch green chile. This small business refrigerates its produce, does all fire roasting to order and sources peppers from a range of suppliers — this is the real deal.

Hatch Versus Pueblo

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Hatch green chiles of New Mexico often makes headlines in the culinary world — but what does New Mexico have that Colorado green chile doesn’t? We asked Deden.

“Hatch green chile sells the most — that’s for sure,” he explained. “But I couldn’t say one is better than the other. Hatch and Pueblo green chiles have similar flavors… it really comes down to personal preference. Mild and medium heat levels occur more often in Hatch than in Pueblo chile… both have similar taste and both enhance just about anything.”

New Mexico native and long-time customer of Deden’s Leo G. Romero swears by the Pueblo green chile.

“The peppers are meatier and the heat is heavier,” said Romero while picking up his special order of extra hot Pueblo green chiles.

Deden sells three times as much Hatch green chile than he does Pueblo, but he says that the Colorado chile gains more and more popularity each season. It may be that the region has yet to catch on to the flavors of Colorado green chile — but it seems only a matter of time before the Pueblo green chile becomes a regional celebrity of its own.

Beyond Pork Green Chile

Green chile stew is a dish that has made itself famous and planted its roots in the wild west. You can find it in diners and taquerias throughout the greater plains area. From drive-thrus to celebrity kitchens like Bobby Flay’s — everywhere seems to serve the pork green chile. But Deden explained there’s much more you can do with them.

“Stew is the most popular…. but customers like to put it on their burgers or even between two slices like a sandwich,” he said. “My favorite is layering green chile in lasagna. The first time we made it the entire green chile lasagna was gone before anyone touched the original one.”

Green chile makes a great addition to anything from enchiladas to huevos rancheros. And the options don’t stop at southwestern cuisine by any means — the pepper can be found in anything from candy and ice cream to beers and whiskey. Venture outside the standard green chile stew — find a new and exciting way to use this flavorful ingredient. For example, The Huffington Post has 25 recipes to get you started.

Tips for Purchasing

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Labor day is a hallmark for chile roasters across the country. The bushels tumble at max capacity then, but the harvesting season is largely dictated by the individual environmental conditions. The first frost marks the end of the growing season — but with temperatures at all-time highs, Deden thinks the season could last as long as late October.

The crew at D&D recommends trying the product before you purchase — they advise clients to crack open a piece of the product and taste it on the spot.  When you bend the pepper listen for a pop — this indicates freshness. Taste from the middle and not from the tip or stem, as these are the extreme ends of the flavor profile. The temperature of any given chile can vary — so make sure to ask your vendor for advice before you go all in on a bushel. The staff at D&D is knowledgeable and will greet you with a smile and an open hand to guide you through your chile selection.

D&D Produce is located at 3421 South Federal and is open every day from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

All photos by Tyler Wernet.

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