The chile pepper plant was domesticated 6,000 years ago in Mexico. Christopher Columbus called them peppers and they were later substituted for black peppercorns. Diego Alvarez Chana was on the second voyage of Columbus and brought the plant to Spain in 1493. The spelling of chile was recorded in 1604 in Spanish or in Nahuatl, it is spelled chili. Sen. Pete Domenici of New Mexico in 1983 entered to the Congressional Record, that the correct spelling is chile. Domenici P1983 Spelling of Chile Congressional Record 129, (149) (NOV3).
After some intensive investigation, it was found that the Pueblo Mirasol chile pepper is vital to the economy of Pueblo and southern Colorado, yet there is no base economic research on the product. What is known about the Pueblo Mirasol Chile is that it grows pointing up facing the sun, therefore the name Mirasol (Spanish for facing the sun). The Mirasol Chile pepper is between 3-5 inches long and ¾ inches wide with a Scoville range between 2,500 – 5,000 SHU’s. The Scoville Heat Unit (SHU) is used to measure the “heat” of chili peppers. Bell peppers are zero SHU’s, while the New Mexico Green Hatch chili is between 500-10,000 SHU’s and the jalapeño is between 2,500 to 8,000 SHU’s. The Mirasol Chile has a unique spicy flavor and is compared to berries and other fruit. Chiliheads (by definition, people who enjoy eating chile peppers), say they can tell the difference between Mirasol and Hatch Chile.
How much acreage is dedicated to this product? What is the value of the product by acreage? How much of the product is used in the county? How many people are employed in the production and processing? No data available. After talking to Michael Batolo, Ph.D, at the Colorado State University and located at the Arkansas Valley Research Center in Rocky Ford, he confirmed that there is no research on the Mirasol Chile but he was able to give some general data on the subject.
First, he believes that there are about 500 to about 600 acres of Mirasol chile under cultivation in the Arkansas valley and second, farmers get about 800 to 1,000 bushes per acre, worth about $8,000 to $ 10,000 per acre, or they should generate between $5 and $6 million in sales. Problem, they are not sure about the acres under cultivation of the Mirasol Chili and there are no reporting requirement like for wheat or corn.
On the consumption side it is estimated that the restaurants in Pueblo average between 3,000 to 4,000 pounds (1 to 2 tons) of chile in a year. One restaurant uses 25 pounds on a daily basis in chile (or about $ 650 worth wholesale). Fifty restaurants in Pueblo using Marisol Green Chile, would utilize 50 to 100 tons of Mirasol Chile being used. New Mexico Hatch Chile is also used by many of the restaurants in Pueblo. It is estimated that 50 tons of chile equal $1 million dollars in sales. It goes to $2 million when sold at the retail price.
One of the main distributors of the Mirosal Chile is Brian Crites of Crites Products. They are located in Avondale, Colorado about 15 miles East of Pueblo. This company is one of main distributors of the Mirasol Chile pepper in the county.
Donnie De Santi and Lisa Musso Marino are involved with the Chili Growers Association. They were formed to market the Pueblo Mirasol Chile, by making sure labeling of Pueblo Mirasol Chile, is the real local grown product. There are an estimated 30 to 40 farmers producing chili in Pueblo County. The top ten include Vigil Farms, Centa Farms, Pantaleno Farms/Pueblo Chili Company, Di Tomaso Farms, Dionisio Farms, Vic Mauro Produce, Peppers Plus, and Country Roots Farm, with Musso and DiSanti Farms being some of the largest.