Chile peppers (Capsicum spp.), including bell peppers, exhibit a wide variety of shapes, sizes, colors, and flavors (Figure 1). The term “pepper” should not be confused with “black pepper” (Pipernigrum), which is produced from the dried, unripe fruit of a vine grown in the tropics.
New Mexico is the leading state in chile acreage (non-bell pepper, Capsicum annuum), and red chile and paprika represent approximately 40% of the state’s overall production. Red chile is derived from New Mexicantype chile varieties that are harvested when fruit have turned red or when they have reached physiological maturity. Paprika is a type of red chile and is the designation used for low (or no) heat, red Capsicum annuum varieties (Wall, 1994). Paprika varieties are also distinguished by their high levels of red pigments (capsanthin and capsorubin) in the pericarp (walls) of the fruit. The majority of the red chile and paprika crop is dehydrated and crushed into flakes or powder for use in a wide variety of products. Approximately 15% of the paprika crop is further processed into oleoresin paprika, a natural red food colorant (Walker, 2007).
The College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences is aggressively involved in finding solutions to current problems in New Mexico. The Water Task Force, New Mexico Chile Association, and Range Improvement Task Force are interdisciplinary teams of researchers, scientists, and other experts that conduct commissioned studies and other work.
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