Brandon Mallett and market manager Ted Galvan take out a fresh batch of roasted Anaheim peppers at Virginia Avenue Park, Farmers Market on Saturday. The roasted papers will be sold throughout the month of September. (photo by Ray Solano)

PICO NEIGHBORHOOD — “We buy ‘em, we roast ‘em and we sell ‘em!” barked Ted Galvan, manager of the Saturday Pico Farmers’ Market, as he stood near a cast iron barrel loaded with green peppers being roasted by vendor Chili Asado. His moustache-covered smile welcomed shoppers as the smell of roasting chilies wafted past his head.

Chili Asado, one of the over 30 vendors at the market (2200 Virginia Ave.) this past Saturday, attracted loyal chili lovers looking for freshness and flavor. The roast only happens once a year during the month of September when chilies are ripe. City Hall invites a vendor like Chile Asado to operate a huge roaster brought back from Santa Fe, N.M. by Farmers’ Market manager Laura Avery to excite taste buds and provide a kick to recipes.

“You can chop them and put them on pizza,” said Amanda Schachter, a local buying a $3 bag of Anaheim peppers. “They go with absolutely everything.”

Chili Asado specializes in three kinds of peppers roasted by hand: pasilla, Anaheim and jalapeno.

The Anaheim, the most popular, is a local pepper that found its way to California from New Mexico in the hands of a farmer named Emilio Ortega. Ortega began growing this relatively mild pepper in Anaheim, Calif. in the early 1900s. The chilies can be used to make stews and salsas, or can be stuffed with chicken and cheese.

The pasilla pepper translates to “little raisin” because it is eaten when dried. Pasillas, also known as “poblanos,” originated in the Puebla region, south of Mexico City. It is one of the most common Mexican chilies. The green pasilla is always cooked or roasted instead of eaten raw. When it matures to red, it can also be used in soups, stews, tamales and sauces.

Last Saturday’s peppers were purchased from Tutti Frutti, an organic farm near Lompoc, Calif.

“I’m filling in to help with the pepper roast,” said Brandon Mallett, 30, of Glendale, Calif. “I got tired of working office jobs and it feels good working outside and doing manual labor for a change.”

It is the third year in a row that Mallett is working the roast.

From chili relleno to quesadillas, to a little something extra to add zing to your eggs or cheeseburgers, peppers are among the most popular items at the market, and the annual roast has become somewhat of a tradition.

Which chilies are roasted each week can vary depending on what’s available. Later on in the month they’ll be roasting Trevino Farms’ chilies de augua, hot chilies originally from Oaxaca.

Mayor Richard Bloom and his wife, Robbie Black, stopped by the Chili Asado stand Saturday to have a look for themselves. Bloom seemed to enjoy a bite of the cheese-and-pepper quesadilla Galvan made especially for him.

Other Santa Monicans crowded in the spicy stand, indulging in another kind of heat that wasn’t coming from the full September sun.

The roasts start at 9 a.m. and go until chilies, which sell for $2 a pound, are gone.


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