The New Official Aroma of New Mexico

The first condition of understanding a country is to smell it.Rudyard Kipling

The New Mexico Legislature rarely makes me laugh. This year they did. An article in the Santa Fe New Mexican, notes that the New Mexico Legislature passed a bill designating the aroma of Fire-Roasted Green Chile as the Official New Mexico smell. Governor Michele Lujan Grisham signed the bill in Las Cruces, March 28, 2023.

While New Mexico is not a country, to understand New Mexico, you should appreciate the unique aroma of Fire-Roasted Green Chile. Importantly, the roasting smell only lasts thirty minutes while eating Green Chile is an every day pleasure.

Fire-Roasting Chile is when the outside waxy layer is quickly scorched with a flame to a char, allowing the removal of the outer skin without damaging the inside Chile meat. The plant produces a waxy coating to keep moisture inside the Chile Pepper while it is growing. Fire-Roasting prepares the outer skin for removal and also gives the Chile meat a fantastic smokey flavor.

As to what made me laugh, it was when discussing Senate Bill 188, one senator, a dairy farmer, noted the stuff sticking to his boots in the Dairy Barn happens to be the smell he associates most with New Mexico. And friends, I know both the roasting smell and the cow pie smell. In fact, I am not revolted by either smell, but prefer the Green Chile Roasting over mucking out of a cow shed, which I have done more times than I care to remember.

Senate Bill 188, introduced by Senator Bill Soules, lists the official New Mexico names for: flower, bird, tree, fish, animal, vegetables, gem, grass (not the intoxicant) fossil, cookie, insect, question, answer, nickname, butterfly, reptile, amphibian, aircraft, historic railroad, tie, necklace, and last but not least, aroma. They forgot the New Mexico sound of Fire-Roasting. It is a white noise and could be on a white noise machine for going to sleep. During the next session they could add a twenty-third designation, the sound of Fire-Roasting Chile as the official New Mexico sound. The New Mexico sound I recognize most often is the sound of wind moving swiftly across New Mexico as we hold onto our hats. One time the wind in New Mexico suddenly stopped and about 500 ranchers all fell over at once. Another New Mexico sound is Tumbleweeds being smashed by cars on roads. They are grilled Tumbleweeds, though not edible.

While the pleasant smells of Fire-Roasting Chile are mildly interesting to me, it is the tasting and eating of green and red Chile that matters. There are certainly less calories for you to just sniff the air and comment on the texture and suitability of the Chile smell. However great the smell is, it is not satisfying. The pleasure of Southwestern cuisine and the delight of New Mexico is a plate of red or green enchiladas with tortillas. That is what spins my happy meter.

Finally, the impetus for making the smell of Green Chile Roasting the official smell of New Mexico was the work of some Las Cruces elementary students. I hope the Las Cruces Public Schools puts in a program to teach all students how to plant and care for Chile Pepper Plants. And, to roast the peppers. Throughout the school year the school lunch program should offer Green and Red Chile. The students will learn the answer to the official New Mexico Question: Red or Green? The Official New Mexico answer is: Red and Green or Christmas, Let’s eat!

If you have any question or comments, please don't hesitate to reach out to me, Michael Swickard, by email at Thank you for reading, and Eat More Chile!

Written by Michael Swickard, Ph.D.

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