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NASA astronauts harvest green chile on ISS, make space tacos

The space station crew finally got to chow down on a spicy, space-grown treat.

NASA astronauts grew New Mexico chile peppers on the ISS and harvested them in October.

NASA

Take fajita beef. Add rehydrated tomatoes and artichokes. Put it all in a tortilla. Top with some Hatch chile you spent months growing. Do all of this while in orbit around Earth on the International Space Station. There you have it, the recipe for space tacos.

Astronauts on the ISS indulged in a special treat after harvesting peppers that have been growing on the ISS since July. The plants are from NuMex "Española Improved" seeds, a hybrid Hatch chile. Hatch refers to a town and region in New Mexico known for its peppers.

NASA astronaut Megan McArthur tweeted on Friday about tasting both red and green chile (the peppers turn red when they stay on the plant longer) and shared photos of the tacos she made, which she described as "my best space tacos yet."

The astronauts mixed in some serious science to go along with the snack. "The investigation involved microbial analysis to improve understanding of plant-microbe interactions in space and the crew's assessment of flavor, texture, and nutrition of the first peppers grown in space," NASA said in a statement

Astronauts have grown lettuce and kale and Chinese cabbage in orbit. The space agency described the chile-fest as "one of the most complex plant experiments to date on station because of the long germination and growing times."

The Plant Habitat-04 study on the ISS is one way NASA is looking ahead at keeping astronaut food interesting, engaging and nutritious for longer-term missions to the moon and Mars. The chile experiment is ongoing. The Crew-3 astronauts preparing to launch to the ISS this week will get to do a second harvest later in the month

Back on Earth, New Mexicans typically prepare green chile by roasting the peppers over a flame and then peeling off the skin. Red chile is usually dried. The ISS crew didn't have the luxury of roasting or drying, but fresh food of any kind is a treat for astronauts. 

As a New Mexico resident, I was happy to learn the astronauts had an answer to our state question: "Red or green?" In space, it's both.