Chile ristras are a great souvenir from New Mexico

Ristras are the strings of chile you see hanging along fences, patios and portals all over New Mexico. In the Fall, you can buy ristras at farmer’s markets and roadside stands. Ristras are sometimes used for decoration and are said to bring good health and good luck. They are often hung up to dry for later cooking and eating.

What is a chile?

Chiles are in the genus Capsicum and the Solanaceae or nightshade family, which includes other New World plants, such as the tomato, potato, eggplant, tobacco and petunia. While we sometimes refer to chiles as “peppers,” they are not related to Piper nigrum, the source of black pepper.


Red chile ristras are the strung pods of dried red chiles displayed near arches, doors and windows all over New Mexico. As a symbol of welcome, ristras are an iconic decoration in New Mexico, especially during harvest and holidays. Ristras have practical uses as the star ingredient of delicious red chile sauce and other New Mexican dishes.

New Mexico’s arid climate and abundant sunshine create ideal conditions for annual chile crops, producing thousands of tons yearly. In late summer and early fall, our unique type of large chile pepper is harvested and frequently picked fresh, roasted and eaten as green chile. When the fruit is left on the plant to ripen a little longer, it turns a vibrant red, completely changing properties. Red chiles must be dried to be eaten. They are often strung up into a chile ristra to dehydrate in the sun.

The traditional method was to sun-dry the fruits by laying them out. However, contamination among birds and rodents prompted people to tie them together in strings and hang them on a wall. As the ristras dry, they become a darker, subtle red colour. At this point, they are ready to be used for cooking or displayed as decoration.


Throughout the fall, you will find ristras at farmer’s markets and roadside stands around the state. Ristras are commonly used for decoration; they are said to bring health and good luck. If you are interested in taking one of these good-luck charms with you to decorate your own home, remember that while they look beautiful and vibrantly red in New Mexico’s arid climate, they might not do so well back home. If you are visiting from a state with humidity, consider having your ristra treated with lacquer. This will help preserve the fruit from the moisture in the air.


Dried chiles are crushed into chile powder or rehydrated, blended, boiled and strained to make red chile sauce (also called “red chile”). The sauce, along with green chile, is a staple of New Mexican cuisine. Red chile may be ladled over dishes such as enchiladas and tamales; used as the base for stews, such as posole, or used as a marinade for meat, as with carne adovada. Green chile, however, is most often used in soups and chowders (along with other vegetables or meats), stuffed and fried for rellenos, or used as a garnish on just about everything!

How to make a ristra?

The two main methods of making a ristra are tying the stems of chile to twine or sewing a thread through the stems.

  1. Tying a ristra
  2. Sewing a ristra

For details, click here


Where to get ristras in Albuquerque

Farmers Chile Market, of course. We have many different types of beautiful edible ristras at great prices. You can find us at 2010 Eubank Blvd NE, 87112, during the chile season. Chile’s season is from the start of August to the end of October. We have been proud to serve Northeast Heights and all of greater Albuquerque. We are just a bit north of I-40 on Eubank and are convenient for people living close to there, up on Tramway, or even up in the mountains.

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