New Mexico chile
New Mexico chile or New Mexican chile (Scientific name: capsicum annuum 'New Mexico Group', Spanish: chile de Nuevo México, chile del norte) is a cultivar group of the chile pepper from the US state of New Mexico, first grown by Pueblo and Hispano communities throughout Santa Fe de Nuevo México. These heritage chile plants were used to develop the modern New Mexico chile peppers by horticulturist Dr. Fabián García and his students, including Dr. Roy Nakayama, at what is now New Mexico State University in 1894. New Mexico chile, which typically grows from a green to a ripened red, is popular in the cuisine of the Southwestern United States, the broader Mexican cuisine, and Sonoran and Arizona cuisine, and an integral staple of New Mexican cuisine. Chile is one of New Mexico's state vegetables, and is referenced in the New Mexico state question "Red or Green?".
|New Mexico chile|
|Cultivar group||New Mexico|
|Marketing names||Hatch chile, green chile, red chile, Anaheim pepper|
|Breeder||Dr. Fabián García|
|Scoville scale||0–100,000 SHU|
Hatch chile is a label for New Mexico chile grown in the Hatch Valley, in and around Hatch, New Mexico. It is an important crop to New Mexico's economy and culture, and it is sold worldwide including Europe, Australia, and Japan.
New Mexico green chile flavor has been described as lightly pungent similar to an onion, or like garlic with a subtly sweet, spicy, crisp, and smoky taste. The ripened red retains the flavor, but adds an earthiness and bite while aging mellows the front-heat and delivers more of a back-heat. The spiciness depends on the variety of New Mexico chile pepper.
Many types of chile plants were first grown by Pueblo residents, who continue to grow their own strains; each with a distinct pungency, sweetness, taste, and heat. For example, Zia Pueblo chile has a bitter-sweet flavor when it matures into its red color. When the Spanish arrived, they introduced European cultivation techniques to the chile plants, and eventually created cultivars in their towns.
The New Mexican type cultivars were developed by pioneer horticulturist Dr. Fabián García, whose major release was the 'New Mexico No. 9' in 1913. Earlier work was done by Emelio Ortega (see section "Anaheim Pepper" below). These cultivars are "hotter" than others to suit the tastes of New Mexicans in their traditional foods. Selective breeding began with 14 lineages of 'Pasilla', 'Colorado', and 'Negro' cultivars, from throughout New Mexico and Southern Colorado. These first commercially viable peppers were created to have a "larger smoother, fleshier, more tapering and shoulderless pod for canning purposes."
Internationally renowned expert on chile genetics, breeding, and germplasm evaluation, Paul Bosland, founded the Chile Pepper Institute at New Mexico State University to study New Mexico's iconic state vegetable and peppers from around the world.
Fruits of New Mexico chile plants are grown from seeds – and each of the individual strains is specifically bred and grown to be disease-resistant and provide consistent and healthy plants within their specific regions. Altitude, climate, soil, and acreage affects a crop's taste and heartiness, making the New Mexican region unique for plant propagation. The Rio Grande bosque, mountains, and high deserts provide the appropriate regional environment for growing chile. To ensure that a variety's lineage remains disease-resistant and maintains optimal growth within its heritage region, seeds from specific plants are carefully selected. An example of a New Mexican chile grown outside the state is the 'Anaheim' pepper which is extremely resilient in multiple altitudes. A quirky aspect of the New Mexico chile plants regards reintroducing seeds from their heritage soil since each successive generation becomes susceptible to disease and it loses its flavor. Therefore, chile farmers usually order seeds from their heritage soils, every few generations, to reinvigorate their crop. This allows New Mexico chile growers to perpetuate successful productions. Seed distributors and sellers from New Mexico, California, and Colorado provide this service to farmers.
Grown in New Mexico
New Mexico chile plants grown in New Mexico are the most sought after, since their flavor, texture, and hardiness are heavily dependent on their growing environment. The plants were originally grown by the Pueblo, and each of their distinct Pueblo plants grows best in its heritage soil. This same trend has continued with other New Mexico chile varietals grown by Spanish, Mexican, and American frontiersmen. Among New Mexico-grown chile, the ones with the most accolades are grown along the Rio Grande, especially along the Hatch Valley.
Hatch chile refers to varieties of species of the genus Capsicum which are grown in the Hatch Valley, an area stretching north and south along the Rio Grande from Arrey, New Mexico, in the north to Tonuco Mountain to the southeast of Hatch, New Mexico. The soil and growing conditions in the Hatch Valley create a unique terroir which contributes to the flavor of chile grown there. Most of the varieties of chile cultivated in the Hatch Valley have been developed at New Mexico State University over the last 130 years.
Hatch chile can be purchased locally in many parts of the Southwest. Some distributors use the "Hatch" name, but do not actually grow and process their chile in the Hatch Valley. To protect Hatch and other New Mexican growers, state legislators passed a 2012 law prohibiting the sale in New Mexico of chile described as "New Mexican" unless grown in New Mexico or came with a prominent "Not grown in New Mexico" disclaimer. Chile grown around the town are marketed under the name of the town, and are often sold fresh-roasted in New Mexico and nationwide in late summer and early autumn.
Pueblo chile plants have been cultivated by the Puebloan peoples of New Mexico for centuries. Acoma Pueblo chile is mild, with a lightly flavorful pungency. The Isleta Pueblo chile develops a fruity sweet flavor as it grows into its red chile state. The Zia Pueblo chile develops a bitter-sweet flavor when it matures into its red color, and its heat is similar to the 'Heritage 6-4'.
These ancient Pueblo varieties should not be confused with a chile grown in Pueblo, Colorado, also called "Pueblo chile", which is the green Numex Mirasol chile, another cultivar of the New Mexico chile.
Rio Grande chile
Along the rest of the Rio Grande, outside of the Hatch Valley, multiple other locations grow award-winning chile in their own right.
Towns and cities across New Mexico have strong chile traditions, including; Chimayo, Española, Lemitar, and San Antonio; and in the Albuquerque metropolitan area from Albuquerque, Bosque, Corrales, Los Ranchos de Albuquerque, and Bosque Farms.
|Scoville scale||500–2,500 SHU|
An Anaheim pepper is a mild variety of the cultivar 'New Mexico No. 9' and commonly grown outside of New Mexico. It is related to the 'New Mexico No. 6 and 9', but when grown out of state they have a higher variability rate. The name 'Anaheim' derives from Emilio Ortega, a farmer who brought the seeds from New Mexico to the Anaheim, California, area in 1894.
The chile "heat" of 'Anaheim' varies from 500 to 2,500 on the Scoville scale.
|Nutritional value per 75 grams|
|Energy||30 kJ (7.2 kcal)|
|Dietary fiber||1.1 g|
|Vitamin A equiv.|
|Pantothenic acid (B5)|
|†Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.|
Green chile is served roasted and peeled, whole or diced, and in various sauces. The most common uses are often served diced, or within sauces and is elemental to dishes such as enchiladas, burritos, burgers, french fries, or rice. Chile is also served whole raw, fried, or baked chiles rellenos. New Mexican-style chile rellenos follow the much more traditional Mexican technique of being covered with egg batter and fried, although variations and casseroles do exist.
In addition to local restaurants, most national food chains such as Applebee's, Domino's Pizza, McDonald's, and Jack in the Box operating in the state offer green chile on many of their menu items, and display a "New Mexico Certified Chile" placard or window sticker.
The red chile, the matured green chile, is frequently dried and ground to a powder. These dried or powdered fruits are turned into a red chile sauce. The dried peppers are rehydrated by boiling in a pot, and then blended with various herbs and spices, such as onion, garlic, and occasionally Mexican oregano. Red chile powder is usually simply blended with water, herbs, and spices; the addition of flour or other thickening agents is often considered to be non-traditional or non-purist.
Serving both red and green chile on a dish is sometimes referred to as "Christmas" style. Both green and red chile can be dried and turned into a powder, though this is more common with red chile.
In 2019 average chile sales price was $793 per ton, and accounted for $50M in sales within New Mexico. Of the 1,644,000 Cwt of peppers produced in the United States in 2019, 1,261,000 Cwt were produced in New Mexico, or about 77% of US chile pepper production.
|Year||Acres planted||Acres harvested|
Harvest is done by both local farmhands and hired help, and also by Mexican farmhands who seasonally work in the Mesilla Valley harvesting the chile, then travel back into Mexico. Because the plants are delicate and produce fruits continuously until the frost, and because the pods are very easily damaged, machine harvesting of chile is especially difficult. Currently, much development, breeding, and engineering is being done to produce a successful chile harvester and machine-harvestable breeds. This puts a limit on the amount of chile that can be economically harvested in New Mexico even if water was unlimited.
New Mexico Certified Chile
A certification program was started in 2014, New Mexico Certified Chile, which certifies the growing and sale of New Mexican chile. The program protects New Mexico chile consumers from falsely labeled products, while protecting farmers from potential diminished demand, which allows larger amounts of New Mexico chile to be grown within the state. When the program was first introduced, it had garnered some criticism, especially in regard to restrictions on farmers who have been growing chile plants from seed lineages more than 400 years old.
New Mexico chile has had a huge impact on New Mexico's cuisine, art, cultures, and even its legislature. Just as with the Zia sun symbol, the chile pepper and its shape, the red and green coloration, and even the silhouette of the fruit, has become a symbol of New Mexican cultural identity, and is featured prominently in both food and nonfood corporate logos, in public artworks, media, infrastructure (i.e. bridges, light poles, etc.) and traditions around the state.
New Mexico is the only state with an official State Question: "Red or green?" and a State Answer: "Red and green or Christmas." "Red or green?" refers to the choices of chile sauce typically offered at local restaurants and is usually asked as quoted. To answer "Christmas" is to choose both red and green on the same dish. Chile is also one of the official state vegetables of New Mexico. One of the official license plate designs in New Mexico, the Chile Plate, features red and green chile, and "Chile Capital of the World" in yellow type.
The lamp posts on Elephant Butte Dam's crest road were lit red and green, a reference to the dam and its reservoir being the source of irrigation and electricity for the chile-growing Hatch region. The NM Dept. of Game and Fish's "Special Trout Waters" fishing water designations are listed as "Red Chile Waters", "Green Chile Waters", or "Xmas Chile Waters", depending on the restrictions in place at the trout fishing location.
The village of Hatch, New Mexico in the Hatch Valley is the center of chile farming in the southwest, and bills itself as the "Chile Capital of the World". The village has hosted an annual "Chile Festival" every summer since 1971.
A ristra is an arrangement of drying chile pods. It is a popular decorative design in the state of New Mexico, and in media nationwide as symbol of New Mexican culture. Some households still use ristras as a means to dry and procure red chile.
"Chile" versus "chili"
In modern everyday English in most of the world, both "chile" and "chili" refer to the fruit of C. annuum; in Spanish, "chile" (chee-le), from Nahuatl chīlli, is used for the pepper. In New Mexican English, however, "chile" (chill-ee) refers to the fruit, while "chili" refers only to chili con carne, a meat based dish popular in neighboring Texas. 'Green chile chili' is chili con carne made with green chile. The word "chile", as used in "green chile", "red chile", or by itself, is also used in layterms to refer specifically to the New Mexico variety, while other varieties are referred to as "peppers" (i.e. jalapeño pepper, ghost pepper). "Green peppers" and "red peppers" usually refers to the respective color of bell peppers.
Many organizations, including farmers, breeders, consumers, and even the New Mexico Department of Tourism make efforts to educate the general public about the differences in spelling within the state, as using "chili" while referring to New Mexican chile may be taken as an insult to some locals.
The first crop of chile of the year usually arrives at retail in New Mexico and surrounding areas by August, which signals the start of "roasting season". Retail establishments around the state, including national chains such as Albertsons and Walmart, set up specially designed apparatuses called 'chile roasters' outside, and display signage advertising the availability of the fruit. A chile roaster consists of a drum with the long side of heavy gauge steel diamond mesh and the ends of thick plate steel discs, mounted horizontally on a frame over powerful propane burners. A shaft usually runs through the center of the drum to act as an axle.
A customer's chile purchase (usually a standard-size produce box-full) is loaded into the cylinder by the retailer, who usually assumes a role also called a "chile roaster", via a hatch in the mesh side. The drum is then turned, either by motor or hand crank, and the chile tumbles within over the flames, ensuring the chile pods are heated on every side as they shed their skins; this ensures the chile skins blister appropriately to allow for easier peeling of the chile. Skins, seeds, and other debris falls through the bottom of the drum. This process is the most popular method since it offers a physical display of the chile; it offers the sound of the chiles crackling, and the sight of the blistering and falling skins, accompanied by the widely distributed smell of the roasting peppers which has become a staple during the early New Mexican autumn. The skins of the roasted chiles are inedible, and peeling the chiles to prepare them for freezer storage is a traditional family communal activity. Some people eat the fresh roasted chiles as a snack, but the Chile Pepper Institute recommends cooking them to 165 °F (74 °C) before consuming.
Horno-roasting chile, while done less often, is a more traditional method. A more common method is simply roasting over an open flame on gas stove-tops and grills.
Cultivars and landraces
Though most New Mexico type peppers are long pod-type peppers, that ripen from green to red, the multitude of New Mexico type cultivars have a slight variance in taste, and widely varying appearances and heat levels. Some varieties may turn yellow, orange, or brown.
The most common New Mexico chile plants are the 'New Mexico 6-4', 'Big Jim', 'Sandia', 'No. 6', and 'No. 9' cultivars. The improved 'Heritage 6-4', 'Heritage Big Jim', and 'Sandia Select' cultivars provide a better yield and uniformity. Peppers like the 'Chimayó', 'Velarde', 'Jemez', 'Escondida', 'Alcalde', 'San Filipe', 'Española', and several others, represent what is known as New Mexico's unique landrace chile, which provide their own unique tastes and usually command a higher price.
|Cultivar||Description||Length||Width||Pod type||Scoville heat units|
|6-4||An heirloom variety developed by Fabián Garcia.||6.6 inches (17 cm)||3.8 inches (9.7 cm)||New Mexican||300 ~ 500|
|6-9||An heirloom variety developed by Fabián Garcia.||New Mexican|
|Acoma||Pueblo chile grown in Acoma Pueblo.||New Mexican|
|Alcalde||New Mexico landrace chile.||New Mexican|
|Anaheim||Mild relative of 'NuMex no. 9', grown outside the state of New Mexico. Flavor and heat varies greatly.||New Mexican||500 ~ 2,500|
|Barker's Hot||The 'Barker’s Hot' chile pepper is an exceptionally hot chile of the New Mexico pod type. The peppers ripen from green to red, with the red fruits being hotter than the green ones.||5–7 inches (13–18 cm)||New Mexican||15,000 ~ 30,000|
|Bailey Piquin||Heat level similar to habanero peppers. 'NuMex Bailey Piquin' is the first chile piquin cultivar that is machine-harvestable. They are used mainly for chile powder production. Released in 1991.||Piqiun||90,000 ~ 100,000|
|Big Jim||Jim Lytle worked with Dr. Nakayama and New Mexico State University (NMSU) to develop a hatch chile that was fondly named 'Big Jim'. This variety holds the record for the longest chile to date, which measured in at 17 inches in 2012.||7–17 inches (18–43 cm)||7–17 inches (18–43 cm)||New Mexican||500 ~ 3,000|
|Centennial||Primarily an ornamental variety; fruit are purple, then mature to yellow, orange, and red. Used in the potted plant industry. Released in 1998.||Piquin||**|
|Chimayó||A medium pepper, green before ripening to a dark, red color. This variety is a landrace historically grown in Chimayó, New Mexico. The peppers are small and curled, and have a complex flavor described as sweet and smoky.||4.5 inches (11 cm)||New Mexican||4,000 ~ 6,000|
|Conquistador||A very mild nonpiquant pepper, green before ripening into a red color. 'NeMex Conquistador' is used to for mass produced chile rellenos.||6.18 inches (15.7 cm)||2.76 inches (7.0 cm)||New Mexican||0|
|Eclipse||Part of the 'Sunrise, Sunset, and Eclipse' pepper line released in 1998. They were created by crossing '6-4' with a green bell peper, and are New Mexican pod type peppers that mature into colors other than red. 'NuMex Eclipse' matures into a brown color.||5.1 inches (13 cm)||1.9 inches (4.8 cm)||New Mexican||300 ~ 500|
|Escondida||New Mexico landrace chile.||New Mexican|
|Española||An old chile pod, has a slightly stronger pungent and bitter flavor and matures early to red, first grown by the Spanish settlers in the San Juan Valley, near modern-day Española.||4.9 inches (12 cm)||1.5 inches (3.8 cm)||New Mexican||1,500 ~ 2,000|
|Española Improved||Hybridization of Sandia and Española. Provides Española's taste and early maturation, with a better yield, and larger peppers.||6.0 inches (15 cm)||1.75 inches (4.4 cm)||New Mexican||1,500 ~ 2,000|
|Fresno||Related to Santa Fe Grande, fruit grows upright and matures to orange and red. Moderately spicy.||2.0 inches (5.1 cm)||1.0 inch (2.5 cm)||Santa Fe Grande||2,500 ~ 10,000|
|Garnet||Machine harvestable breed candidate with low heat, used mainly for dye production. Released in 2004.||6.2 inches (16 cm)||1.5 inches (3.8 cm)||New Mexican||150 ~ 160|
|Heritage 6-4||A 200-seed sample of the original 'New Mexico 6-4', obtained from the Plant Germplasm Preservation Research Unit (PGPRU) at the National Center for Genetic Resources Preservation, in Ft. Collins, Colorado. The PGPRU received the seed in 1962 and placed it in cryogenic storage. The flavor of the plant was rehabilitated from these seeds.||6.7 inches (17 cm)||3.7 inches (9.4 cm)||New Mexican||1,559|
|Heritage Big Jim||Grown from seeds obtained from the National Seed Storage Lab, 'NuMex Heritage Big Jim' are more uniform in form and piquancy than current 'Big Jim' varieties.||7–12 inches (18–30 cm)||New Mexican||500 ~ 1,000|
|Holiday Ornamentals||Upright Ornamental peppers. Released in 2004. Includes 'NuMex Valentine's Day,' 'NuMex St. Patrick's Day,' 'NuMex Memorial Day,' 'NuMex Halloween,' 'NuMex Thanksgiving' and 'NuMex Christmas'.||Piquin||**|
|Isleta||Pueblo chile grown near the Rio Grande Bosque around the Pueblo of Isleta.||New Mexican|
|Jemez||New Mexico landrace and pueblo chile grown near Jemez Pueblo.||New Mexican|
|Joe E. Parker||Thicker walled '6-4', with a heat variance based on growing conditions; 149 days to maturity.||6.5 inches (17 cm)||2.0 inches (5.1 cm)||New Mexican||800 ~ 900|
|Luci Fairy||30,000 ~ 50,000|
|Marisol||Named for the upright posture of the fruit that "points" to the sun; mirasol is Spanish for "looking at the sun". 'Numex Mirasol' was created by crossing 'La Blanca' and 'Santaka' peppers and selecting for upright fruit. Released in 1993.||2.17 inches (5.5 cm)||0.75 inches (1.9 cm)||Marisol||**|
|Nematador||'NuMex Nematador' is an open-pollinated, nematode resistant, cayenne-type chile that was released in 2003.||5.8 inches (15 cm)||0.6 inches (1.5 cm)||Cayenne||15,500 ~ 16,000|
|No. 6||An heirloom variety developed in 1950 by Dr. Roy Harper. 'New Mexico No. 6' was bred from "a selection made in 1947 from an undesignated local chile". (Harper, 1950).||New Mexican||700 ~ 900|
|No. 9||An heirloom variety developed by Dr. Fabián García. They were bred to be milder to increase consumption by Anglo settlers. Dr. Garcia selected 14 varieties from tree pod types, pasilla, colorado, and negro, to create new varieties. After nine years of breeding, only 'No. 9' remained. It was the very first New Mexican pod type chile.||New Mexican||1,000 ~ 1,500|
|Piñata||A cultivar of the 'early jalapeño', it spontaneously originated in the field due to a single recessive gene resulting in coloration changes to the plant and its fruit. Matures to yellow, orange, and red. Released in 1998.||Jalapeño||35,000 ~ 50,000|
|Primavera||Relatively yet uniformly mild jalapeño variety introduced in 1998.||2 inches (5.1 cm)||1 inch (2.5 cm)||Jalapeño||8,500 ~ 9,000|
|R Naky||Developed by Roy Nakayama in 1985, from a mix of the 'Rio Grande', '6-4', and 'Bulgarian Paprika', and "an early-maturing native type".||5.5 inches (14 cm)||New Mexican||260 ~ 760|
|Rio Grande||New Mexican||2,500 ~ 5,000|
|Rio Grande 21||Large mild pepper, created from a cross between 'No. 6' and 'Anaheim', 'Rio Grande 21' is not as widely grown as other cultivars. Released in 1967.||6.7 inches (17 cm)||1.73 inches (4.4 cm)||New Mexican||500 ~ 700|
|San Filipe||New Mexico landrace chile.||New Mexican|
|Sandia||Released by Dr. Roy Harper in 1956 by cross breeding a 'NuMex No. 9' type with a Californian Anaheim-type chile. Originally named "Sandia A". Released in 1956.||6.6 inches (17 cm)||1.7 inches (4.3 cm)||New Mexican||1,500 ~ 2,000|
|Sandia Select||Improved 'Sandia' pepper to provide a spicier fruit with better yield and uniformity.||6–7 inches (15–18 cm)||1–2 inches (2.5–5.1 cm)||New Mexican||20,000 ~30,000|
|Suave Orange||Part of the 'Numex Suave' line of mild C. chinense peppers released in 2004. Their ancestry is unknown, but it is inferred that they contain local landrace heritage based on size.||1–2.5 inches (2.5–6.4 cm)||1–2 inches (2.5–5.1 cm)||Habanero||774|
|Suave Red||Part of the 'Numex Suave' line of mild C. chinense peppers.||1–2.5 inches (2.5–6.4 cm)||1–2 inches (2.5–5.1 cm)||Habanero||335|
|Sunburst||Part of the 'Sunglo, Sunflare, and Sunburst' pepper line released in 1991. They are peppers of de Arbol pod type and were created for ornimental use. Thay are used to make miniature wreaths and miniristras.'NuMex Sunburst' matures to orange color.||2.78 inches (7.1 cm)||0.5 inches (1.3 cm)||de Arbol||**|
|Sunflare||Part of the 'Sunglo, Sunflare, and Sunburst' pepper line. 'NuMex Sunflare' matures to a red color.||2.87 inches (7.3 cm)||0.4 inches (1.0 cm)||de Arbol||**|
|Sunglo||Part of the 'Sunglo, Sunflare, and Sunburst' pepper line. 'NuMex Sunglo' matures to a yellow color.||3.26 inches (8.3 cm)||0.54 inches (1.4 cm)||de Arbol||**|
|Sunrise||Part of the 'Sunrise, Sunset, and Eclipse' pepper line; 'NuMex Sunrise' matures into an yellow color.||7.1 inches (18 cm)||1.5 inches (3.8 cm)||New Mexican||300 ~ 500|
|Sunset||Part of the 'Sunrise, Sunset, and Eclipse' pepper line; 'NuMex Sunset' matures into an orange color.||6 inches (15 cm)||1 inch (2.5 cm)||New Mexican||300 ~ 500|
|Sweet||High yield, low heat cultivar selected from a single plant in a field of open pollinated '6-4', a spicy veriety. 'NuMex Sweet' was released in 1990.||New Mexican||200 ~ 300|
|Taos||Pueblo chile grown in the foothills of the Taos Mountains near Taos Pueblo.||New Mexican|
|Twilight||Ornamental variety that matures purple, yellow, orange, and then red in 216 days. 'NuMex Twilight' is important to the potted plant industry for its ornamental value, and to breeders for its resistance to the cucumber mosaic virus.||Piquin||**|
|Valverde||New Mexico landrace chile.||New Mexican|
|Vaquero||Open pollinated jalapeño variety that "has good jalapeño flavor with sweet walls." Due to its susceptibility to Phytophthora capsici, 'Numex Vaquero' was released to farmers in 1991, but not as a "tolerant cultivar".||2.5 inches (6.4 cm)||0.9 inches (2.3 cm)||Jalapeño||25,000 ~ 30,000|
|XX Hot||Developed at New Mexico State University by The Chile Pepper Institute, 'NuMex XX Hot' Peppers are slim with thin walls and smooth skin.||3–5 inches (7.6–12.7 cm)||New Mexican||60,000 ~ 70,000|
|Zia||Pueblo chile grown near Zia Pueblo.||New Mexican|
**Mainly used as ornamental.
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"Hatch Chile" is not actually a variety of pepper, but is a term used to describe fruits of several different varieties grown in the area.
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