Ristras (chile pod strings) (1931)

Bapopik at AOL.COM Bapopik at AOL.COM
Fri Dec 1 20:30:09 UTC 2006

Any forthcoming OED entry for "ristra"? DARE has the 1989 New York  
Times--not good. OK, so I'm adding New Mexico stuff to my "Texas" list.
Chile ristras (strings of chile pepper pods) are a familiar sight in New  
Mexico and perhaps parts of West Texas. The original purpose was to group the  
pods together for later consumption, but the ristras are often sold as  

(Dictionary of American Regional English)  
ristra n [Span “"a string (of chilis, garlic, onions, etc)"] esp NM  
A string of dried chili peppers. 

_Wikipedia: Ristra_ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ristra)   
Ristras are arrangements of drying chile pepper pods. Although their  main 
purpose is to preserve chile for later consumption they are commonly used  
decoratively in chile-producing areas.  

_Albuquerque, Chili  Ristras_ 
The Chili Ristras is Albuquerque’s most common and persistent  decorative 
element. The custom of hanging the bright red chili ristras started  hundreds of 
years ago, for very practical reasons--preserving chili as a  foodstuff. 
Drying the red chili into a ristra (the spanish word for “string")  was the only 
way people could save it after the growing season. They would lay  the chili 
pods on the roof to sun-dry, then string them together. As it was a  staple of 
the New Mexican diet, this treatment would allow the chili to be  preserved for 
about a year. Now, you can simply freeze chili to preserve it.  However, the 
chili ristra lives on as a southwestern home decoration.  
The world-famous New Mexico chili peppers all start out green; and much of  
the crop is harvested at this stage, which tastes distinctly different from the 
 later red phase. Yet fresh green chili is a very perishable commodity, while 
the  mature red pod is semi-permanent. So the early settlers let the pods 
ripen to a  brilliant red, then thoroughly dried them, then linked them into 

_New  Mexico Catalog_ 
New Mexico Ristras 
A traditional sign of  welcome in the Land of Enchantment, our dried ristras 
can also be used in your  favorite red chile recipes (which are included). 
Hand strung from chiles grown  here in the Mesilla Valley. Made to order. 
Indicate your choice below: #1250 1  Foot Ristra, #194 2 Foot Ristra or #848 3 Foot 

_Google  Books_ 
Chile Peppers: Hot Tips and Tasty Picks for Gardners and  Gourmets 
by Beth C. Hanson 
Brooklyn: Brooklyn Botanic Gardens  
Pg. 62: 
Larger peppers with thicker walls take longer to dry.  You can spread them on 
screens or baskets to dry, or make them into  ristras—large strings of chiles 
tied by their stems with heavy string or twine  and hung in the hot sun to 
dry. Ristras are common in the Southwest and Mexico,  where these heavy, fat 
strings of deep red chiles are hung outside from rafters  and doorways. Ristras 
are often used decoratively; if you plan to use them for  cooking, once they 
are thoroughly dried, bring them inside and hang them away  from direct 

by Pat Sparks 
New York:  St. Martin’s Press 
Pg. 27: 
“When strolling through the  Southwest’s older cities, the sight of ristras 
of chiles drying in the sun is a  familiar one.” 
American Harvest 

23 October  1931, Albuquerque (NM) Journal, pg. 5, col. 1: 
Ristra of red, red  chili, a profusion of autumn leaves, decoration of 
bittersweet, and a splendid  fall day made the Ladies’ day at the Country club 
Wednesday most enjoyable.  

10 September 1939, Albuquerque (NM) Journal, pg. 7, col. 3: 
A  thousand ristras of chili will be used in the decorative scheme for the 
Coronado  State Fair Ball Sept. 28 at the Hilton Hotel. 

22 February 1951, Santa  Fe New Mexican, section B, pg. 8 ad: 
Limited Quantity  

23 October 1952, New Mexican (Santa Fe, NM), pg.  A11 ad: 
RISTRAS Chimayo...each $4.50 

1 October  1976, New Mexican (Santa Fe, NM), pg. A12, col. 5: 
Molasses ground at  the old mill will be poured into bottles; fresh ground 
corn meal will go into  handmade tamales, chile from the fields will be strung 
in ristras and rugs will  be created on looms that have been protected for 

27 September  1987, New York Times, pg. XX6: 
At farmers’ markets in New Mexico,  which generally run until the middle of 
October, you should ask to smell any  powder you intend to buy. As Chimayo 
farmers are quick to warn, what is sold as  Chimayo chile is not always from 
Chimayo. Trust your nose; the powder should  smell rich and sweet. When examining 
ristras, strings of chile pods, check for  tiny black spots, which indicate 
mold. Also, if you intend to use the pods for  cooking, ask to make sure they 
haven’t been sprayed with an acrylic  preservative. 

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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