Charles DeLara stands amidst Herman's chile garden.
Chile runs through his veins
Herman Tafoya, a life-long resident of Algodones, has a special
gift for growing chile. He grows many kinds of vegetables, but native
chile is his top priority. Herman remembers being twelve years old,
planting and hoeing in the family garden. In those days, Rototillers
were nonexistent. The earth was tilled with a shovel, a horse-driven
plow, or a hand plow.
Starting at a young age, Herman woke up before dawn and tended
to the garden through the long, hot summers. Even though it was
very hard work, he always looked forward to seeing what the harvest
produced. He learned early how to tie red chile into beautiful ristras.
Every year, Herman has worked in his garden for the sheer love
of growing plants. You know he loves to do it, because it would
be simpler to just buy a few sacks of chile for freezing and a few
ristras to last the winter. Even the few years he lived in Albuquerque,
he grew a garden in his small back yard.
He sells a little bit of green chile and a few ristras for a little
extra income, but mostly Herman gives away his green chile and ristras
to people in the community he cares about.
This year was an excellent year for growing green chile. Herman’s
chile plants grew and grew like the beanstalk in the story of Jack
and the Beanstalk. The plants grew as high as five feet and some
a little taller. In years past, he has made as many as seventy ristras.
This year, Herman has picked about twenty sacks of green chile.
The ristras are still being produced, which is amazing, considering
his garden is only about eighty feet by fifty feet.
Herman’s wife of forty-eight years, Rose, also enjoys harvesting
chile. She makes the best chile rellenos you can sink your teeth
into. Her list of favorite chile recipes is long, from red and green
chile stew to tamales to carne adovada. With that much chile around,
a person has to be diverse with their chile dishes. Herman and Rose
have three sons, George, Stephen, and Gary; and two daughters, Susan
If you‘re in Algodones, you will surely see Herman in his
garden working away. Just honk your horn, and he’ll look up