Chile Pepper Institute – Las Cruces, New Mexico - Gastro Obscura
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Las Cruces, New Mexico

Chile Pepper Institute

At this research institute, the chile is king. 

Fans of spice will want to visit New Mexico State University’s Chile Pepper Institute. For decades, the world’s only chile pepper research institute has answered questions from growers and pepper-lovers, while promoting the work of the many faculty members and students breeding and researching peppers. 

The university has long been a hub for chile growing, since the school’s first horticulturist, Fabian Garcia, embarked on a campaign of “chile improvement” in the early 20th century. He succeeded, taking New Mexican chiles from an obscure backyard crop to a fruit eaten across the country (yes, chiles are actually berries).

The visitor center store sells innovative chile products, from a rainbow of hot sauces to brownie mix that includes bhut jolokia, once considered the hottest pepper in the world. But be sure to venture beyond the store, as the Institute’s garden is not to be missed.

There, you’ll find more than 150 different pepper varieties from around the world bearing spicy pods in colors from the typical green to a fantastic purple. The garden has a theme each year—in 2018, the yellow theme produced a sunny crop of yellow peppers. 

Know Before You Go

The Institute and its garden are separate: The former is in room 265 (second floor) of Gerald Thomas Hall. It's open Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The garden is on 113 West University Ave., inside the Fabian Garcia Botanical Garden. The garden is only open during the chile season, so visit from June to October, though it is open seven days a week.