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Poblano Chiles

Poblano Chiles and one orange Doe Hill pepper

I have been able to find Poblano chiles occasionally even in my very stodgy local grocery for the last few years, and I’ve posted a couple of recipes calling for them. This year we are growing them ourselves, as the supply is unreliable, but their intermittent presence reminded me that I like them very much.

Poblano means “from Puebla”, which is the state in Mexico from whence, presumably, these peppers originate. Puebla is in south-central Mexico (not too far from Mexico City) but they have spread far and wide enough to be very popular well into the southern United States. Speaking of wide, if these peppers are dried they are called “anchos” (meaning “wide”) and they are very popular in this way as well as fresh. Looking at the map, I note that Puebla is not too far from Jalapa, the source of another very popular Mexican chile.

They are not the ideal chile for growing in our climate; they did very well this summer but if we had tried them in last year’s cool, rainy summer I suspect they would have been much less happy. Still, in a hot year they should do well here. Like pretty much all peppers they need to be started indoors 2 months before planting them out after all danger of frost. That means we start ours from around March 24th to April 1st. Bottom heat is useful. After that, keep them warm and keep them reasonably well watered, and by the end of August you should be picking plenty of peppers; let’s call that 75 to 80 days to maturity. We support our plants with a tomato cage; I think that’s a good idea. Plants loaded with ripening peppers can get so top-heavy they topple over.

The peppers themselves are unusual, being very dark green, almost black, ripening to very dark red, almost black. They have a unique sweet and smoky quality. Their heat level varies considerably, although I would describe these a hot eating chile rather than a hot seasoning chile. You may find only a few flickers of heat more than your average bell pepper, or they may be very spicy indeed. You may find both conditions on chiles from the same plant, and in fact within a single pepper. Be prepared to be surprised, although they do get hotter as they ripen, and I suspect that like other chiles, they are often hotter when grown in hotter, drier weather. The flesh is fairly thick and substantial, and the peppers are large, so these are commonly stuffed with cheese and fried in an egg batter (I baked mine) although there are lots of other tasty options.

Their skins can be rather tough and papery, and the chiles are usually roasted to allow the skins to be peeled from them before they are incorporated into whatever dish they are destined for. Since I anticipate having lots of peppers I plan to roast and peel many of them, then vacuum-pack and freeze them for use in the winter. I hope you are able to find some because I expect to have a few recipes to post for them!

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