Hang onto your hat-ch. New Mexico’s famous Hatch chiles are almost here. The season is short, from early August to the end of September, so you’ll want to get your share before they’re gone.

If you’re a Hatch fanatic, you’ll line up with your stash at a chile roasting — Melissa’s Produce will have 17 of these at markets in Southern California. Then you can store them in the freezer, where they’ll keep for up to two years.

The roasting is done by the case — 25 pounds, which isn’t much if you’re hot for these chiles. Buy a pound or two and you’ll have to roast them yourself.

Why bother roasting? It deepens the flavor and makes the chiles easy to peel. Hatch peel isn’t great to eat. It’s the robust flesh you’re after and the thicker, firmer texture that makes these chiles ideal for stuffing. The Anaheim is a flabby, hard-to-peel wimp in comparison.

Hatches are the only fresh chiles cultivated and marketed in degrees of spiciness ranging from mild to extremely hot. The way the crops are watered determines the heat level. If you freeze a hot Hatch for a long period, it will become even hotter. The chile itself doesn’t change. As moisture evaporates, the flavor intensifies.

Just one area, the Mesilla Valley in New Mexico, produces authentic Hatch chiles. The taste reflects the terroir, like wine. We’ve heard of attempts to market cheaper green chiles as Hatches, so get yours from a reliable source.

Melissa’s Los Angeles roasting schedule starts Aug. 16 at Gelson’s Silver Lake market and ends Sept. 20 at Bristol Farms South Pasadena. Check with Melissa’s for other sites and dates.

In New Mexico, chile-heads put Hatches into everything, from chile stews to desserts and drinks. Another option is this grilled cheese sandwich from Melissa’s Hatch Chile Cookbook.

Grilled cheese and Hatch chile sandwich; Credit: Barbara Hansen

Grilled cheese and Hatch chile sandwich; Credit: Barbara Hansen

Grilled Cheese Hatch Chile Sandwich
From: Melissa’s Hatch Chile Cookbook
Makes: 2 sandwiches

Unsalted butter, softened
4 slices sourdough bread
4 ounces Cheddar cheese, cut into 1/3-inch-thick slices
1 Hatch chile, roasted, peeled, stemmed, seeded and halved lengthwise

1. Set a large pan over medium-high heat and add enough butter to lightly coat the bottom of the pan.

2. Layer the cheese and chiles onto 2 of the bread slices. Top with the remaining 2 slices of bread.

3. Cook the sandwiches on one side, turning after 5 minutes or when the first side is golden brown and the cheese has begun to melt. Cook on the other side just until golden brown. Serve hot.

Read more from Barbara Hansen at TableConversation.com, EatMx.com, @foodandwinegal and Facebook. Want more Squid Ink? Follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook.

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