For years, people have come from all corners of Arizona to a farm stand on a rural stretch of Power Road, seeking a highly prized ingredient concealed in burlap sacks.

“We’ve had people come from Page, Globe, Winslow, Yuma — all over the state. It’s amazing. Chile is the only thing I’ve ever found that people will drive for,” says T.J. McCuin, owner of Power Road Farmers Market in Mesa.

The market’s eighth annual Hatch Chile Festival will be held 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. McCuin expects to roast and sell 10,000 pounds of the famous New Mexico crop over the weekend.

In season from about mid-August through mid-September, Hatch chiles come from farms around Hatch, N.M., a town of about 1,700 that bears the distinction of “Chile Capital of the World.” Chiles are typically roasted over an open flame or dried in ristras (hanging bunches) to pinch from in the kitchen or use as decoration.

Chiles will be available in mild, medium, hot, extra hot and double extra hot varieties at the Mesa festival. Most cooks, McCuin says, walk away with two or three 40-pound gunny sacks of roasted peppers.

Roasting burns the peppers’ tough skin, making the tasty chile underneath ready for versatile uses.

“Once you use it, you start putting it on everything. It’s got an addictive quality to it,” says McCuin. “People will have 100 pounds in their freezer to last them throughout the year, because once you start tinkering with it, you put it on your eggs in the morning, you put it on a burger, you have it with every meal. That’s what Hatch does to you.”

Hatch chiles are often available, while quantities last, at Food City and Pro’s Ranch Market stores, and at Guadalupe Farmers Market, 9210 S. Avenida del Yaqui, Guadalupe. Call your nearby store to check for availability; some offer roasting only certain days of the week.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-6818 or azajac@evtrib.com

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