Most chile peppers are grown in places with some combination of seasonally high temperatures and aridity, sunshine and long frost-free periods. These climatic features allow for some or all the drying to take place in open air. The leading production and export regions are China, Mexico, Turkey, Indonesia, India and Spain. Can chiles be grown and dried in Michigan? Can Michigan-grown and dried chiles compete in the international spice trade? These were questions asked by a local sauce-maker who wanted to make mole (pronounced moh-lay) sauces from Michigan-grown and Michigan-dried chiles. Moles are a Mexican sauce made from large-fruited, sweet and mild-heat varieties, including poblanos, pasillas and guajillos.
To assess adaptability, 12 commercially available varieties and one experimental variety were grown in 2018 at Michigan State University Extension’s Saginaw Valley Research and Extension Center outside Frankenmuth, Michigan, to determine which would yield the highest number of ripe colored fruit before the first frost and to estimate drying costs.