If you stay in Colorado for any amount of time, you pay attention to the seasons. Vivid and dramatic, and with each a particularly awe-striking and generally sunny beauty, such as the extended fall we enjoyed in 2021. This hot and bright weather plus cool nights nurture the variety of chile pepper that we celebrate at Moksha Chocolate this year: the Pueblo. Meatier and thicker-skinned than the more renowned Hatch chilies from New Mexico, it is perfect for roasting. It caramelizes better, we note, and generally has more of a kick. Just add... chocolate! (and a dash of Maldon sea salt).
Moksha Makes a Colorado Natural
So how did we Boulder chocolate makers end up with a green chile dark chocolate bar that blows the doors off other seasonal combos we toyed with? Well, Colorado cuisine is a curious thing. Always angling for healthy and artisanal takes on the classics, our Front Range favorites draw influence from a pioneering spirit carried along in the pull toward the Rocky Mountains from the west coast and New Mexico and many points beyond. And, despite Colorado's landlocked geography, here you can find restaurants serving authentic food from most parts of the world — now including Burmese cuisine — and Denver has had an Ethiopian restaurant since the 1980s. Green chili dresses up Colorado's typically midwestern fare and douses a breakfast burrito. The sauce is traditionally made with pork, as in the luscious liquid ladled at Denver's James Beard award-winning El Taco de Mexico taqueria, but absolutely delicious in vegetarian styles. Apologies to the pigs, but they may be happy to hear that all you really need is quality roasted chilies, onions, and garlic in a light roux base for a rich and pungent fiery stew. It came to us from New Mexico, but green chile is a Colorado classic.
Chile and Chocolate, OG BFFs
Mixing chile and chocolate goes back thousands of years. The ancient Mayans celebrated and energized with spice in their cacao beverages as early as 400 CE in intricately decorated ceremonial vessels. Evidence of theobromine, the mild stimulant found in cacao, has been found in Olmec pottery dating back to 1600 BCE (source: Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian) Historically, chilies and cacao originated in the Mesoamerican cradle of civilization, and we agree that it's a holy combination! And far more "American" than apple pie with green chile, if you will... Our Colorado Pueblo Chile dark chocolate bars are described as medium spicy, with an herbal tingle that complements the Maya Mopan 70% dark chocolate base with caramel flavors and a roasty espresso finish. Latitudes collide again with chilies and cacao, and FYI: they are both classified as fruit. Nutrition-wise, chilies have more vitamin C than citrus, and cacao more iron than beef!
The Pueblo Chile, Outstanding in the Field
Cultivated in the Pueblo area since the late 1800s by settlers, the Pueblo chile has been selectively bred for the growing conditions of the Arkansas River valley, with good drainage in the sandy soil. It came up from New Mexico after being established by the horticulturist Dr. Fabián García. In the last few decades, horticulturists have perfected what is technically the Mosco green chile (read more about it here) bred by Dr. Mark Bartolo of Colorado State University for the signature thick skin that allows for more juiciness and flavor retention. Dr. Bartolo bred the chile from a sack of Marisol chile seeds saved back in his uncle's barn in the Pueblo area. Surveying the growing chilies in the field, Bartolo noticed one that looked a bit different and had a thicker skin, and that became the beefy Mosco. These chilies are likely descended from the ancestral chilies of Oaxaca, Mexico. Once established, this stout chile was named after his uncle, Harry Mosco.
At left, the landrace Mirasol chile. At right, the classic thick-skinned Mosco Pueblo chile. Photos courtesy of Dr. Mike Bartolo
Doing It Farm to Bar
Moksha Chocolate orders and hand roasts its chiles fresh from a family farm in Pueblo. Carla Houghton of Mauro Farms and Bakery in Pueblo, Colorado, reports that the Mosco green chile is a great crop due to its hardiness and versatility. "We had a big hailstorm in 2000 and the field just looked like sticks, but those Pueblo chile plants grew right back and we were able to harvest well that year, thankfully. This year was a little slow going due to the smoke from the wildfires, but the harvest is great and we will be shipping fresh chilies for another week or two and frozen well into November." She makes a green chile candy sold in the bakery store at the farm, and notes that for the record, the Italian immigrants in the area brought the custom of roasting the chilies. Houghton's grandmother, of Slovenian descent, baked and sold potica, a traditional pastry, beginning in 1963 and it is still sold in the farm bakery today. The unique cultural mix of this area is a culinary gem in Colorado!
Our exhilarating local chile bar is festive in appearance and will be a warming indulgence once the snow flies. It's a limited edition, so order soon for gifting, sharing, or sneaking! Buy online for delivery or pickup at www.mokshachocolate.com.