August 1, 2011
Gary Paul Nabhan is one of the pioneers of the native- and slow-food movements, and as an ethnobotanist, his interest has long lain in the effects that climate change is having on plant populations. Along with Iowa chef, gardener, writer and slow-food advocate Kurt Friese and chile pepper agroecologist Kraig Kraft, he fired up an old van they called the Spice Ship and set off on a road trip to investigate how climate change was affecting chile pepper cultivation or foraging. They devote chapters and journeys in Chasing Chiles: Hot Spots Along the Pepper Trail to the wild chiltepin of the Sonoran desert; the datil of Florida; the habanero of the Yucatan; the Tabasco of Avery Island, Louisiana; the ubiquitous chiles of New Mexico; and a handful of smaller pepper populations, including the Fish Pepper and the Beaver Dam Pepper. In contrast to Estabrook’s book, none of these peppers is commercially grown except the Tabasco, and even that is an indigenous, unhybridized pepper that must be harvested by hand — but each of these peppers is endangered in various ways: by changing climate, changing tastes, difficulty of cultivation, and the attendant abandonment of small agriculture by people who can no longer make a living at it. The pleasure of this book lies in the stated purpose: “It was a fairly simple idea: to listen. We wanted to listen first hand to the voices in our food system, rather than taking what bureaucrats in the USDA or the Farm Bureau were saying as the gospel truth. We wanted to see with our own eyes how farmers, farmworkers, food marketers, and chefs were already responding to… factors directly affect[ing] our food supply, and ultimately, our food security and capacity for survival.”
Read all of this review and two other worthy books @ Bookslut | Small is Beautiful: Countering Despair with Hope.
May 26, 2011
It seems that over the past few years, there have been a number of books that make us think about food, where it comes from, and how it impacts our health. I’m thinking of Michael Pollan’s many top-selling titles, Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love, or Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle… the titles are numerous and I’ve been impressed with nearly all of the “food books” that I’ve read over the past few years (in fact it’s become one of my genres of choice). Author’s Kurt Friese, Kraig Kraft, and Gray Nabhan make their own offering to the field with their recent title Chasing Chiles: Hot Spots Along the Pepper Trail with a new take on the food book.
Rather than focusing solely on the experience of food or its origins, Chasing Chiles takes a broader glance at the infamous chile pepper and its future in a world challenged by “global weirding” (a more robust term referencing the weather patterns created by global warming used by the authors). The authors follow the story of six different types of chile peppers within their indigenous locations in North America. During each of their pepper “hunts” the roving gastronauts (as they refer to themselves) explore the chile-laced cuisine of each region while taking the time to learn the history behind each species of pepper as well as to glance into its future.
Read the rest at Chasing Chiles – Book Review – Urban Times – Optimistic, Forward-Thinking.
May 6, 2011
Climate change is the issue of our time. Its ill effects will fall heaviest on the people who have least contributed to it: billions in the global south. But no one will escape the impact of the warming climate, and one place it will manifest most obviously is on our plates. If we look at chile peppers, for example, it’s easy to see how the negative effects of climate change have affected the food on our plates and the farmers behind that food.
In their new book, Chasing Chiles: Hot Spots Along the Pepper Trail, authors (and self-titled “gastronauts”) Gary Nabhan, Kurt Michael Friese, and Kraig Kraft clear a path in the rubble on their beloved “spice ship,” with the chile pepper as their guide. You’ll never see hot sauce in the same way again. In this interview, the three spoke as a team, so I’ve conglomerated their answers to reflect their pepper-infused mind-meld.
Red teh interview @ Hot stuff: chile peppers, climate change, and the future of food | Grist.
April 30, 2011
Kurt & Kraig went out to LA and made dinner for Kai Ryssdal and the crew of Marketplace from American Public Media. It aired on their show on Friday, April 29, 2011:
There are more than 10,000 varieties of chili peppers, and they are big business. But climate uncertainty is affecting the cultivation of some peppers.
Kai Ryssdal: Take a moment now to consider the chili pepper. There are more than 10,000 varieties. We eat ‘em. We season our food with them. They go into arthritis creams and shampoos, pesticides and, yes, pepper sprays. In 2007 — the last year we have the data for — American farmers grew more than 800,000 tons of chili peppers. Twenty-six million tons worldwide, half of that in China.
So, needless to say, they’re big business. Beyond the commercial, though, chili peppers are important in cuisines and cultures all over the world. Which helps explain why I found myself shopping for chilies in a Mexican market the other day with a chef…
Kurt Friese: I’m Kurt Friese. I’m the chef.
And an agroecologist.
Kraig Kraft: Hi, I’m Kraig Kraft. I’m the agroecologist.
A what? Let me just say he knows more about chilies than you and I would ever want to know.
Read the whole transcript or listen to the radio story @ Marketplace From American Public Media.
April 26, 2011
In an article posted on The Atlantic’s website last week, Gary Paul Nabhan, co-author of Chasing Chiles: Hot Spots Along the Pepper Trail, addressed the relationship between farming in the Southwest and climate change—both food production and food security have been cast into question with the growing scarcity of water and unpredictable growing seasons and weather patterns, such as drought.
Nabhan points out that with water capacity near its limit for cities and rural agricultural areas, “food security in the Southwest depends upon the security of water supplies being delivered to irrigable land. That capacity, we can now see, has been severely impaired by urban growth in the Sunbelt since World War II, and is likely to be further impacted by the vagaries of weather shifts.”
Read the whole story at Improve Your “Foodprint”: Farming and Climate Change |.
April 18, 2011
The chile pepper has transformed cuisines around the world since it was first brought from the “New World.” As farmers began growing chiles in more and more places, the plants changed and adapted, creating new varieties. Our guests celebrate and fight to preserve the world’s diverse peppers.
via Audio: Chasing Chiles @SpokenWord.org.
April 7, 2011
Go GARY! Splendid profile of Chasing Chiles co-author Gary Nabhan, his garden and the book in the 4/7/11 edition of the Paper of Record.
THERE was a frost expected here two weeks ago, but Gary Paul Nabhan, a conservation biologist and inveterate seed-saver, was out in his hardscrabble garden anyway, planting his favorite food, hot chilies.
Chiltepin, chile de árbol the one that scrambles up trees, Tabasco, serrano, pasilla, Chimayó. These are only a few of the pungent peppers that Mr. Nabhan and two other chili lovers — Kurt Michael Friese, a chef from Iowa City, and Kraig Kraft, an agro-ecologist studying the origin of hot peppers — collected on a journey that began two years ago, in northern Mexico, and took them across the hot spots of this country.
Read the whole story @ Hot on the Trail of Chili Peppers – In the Garden – NYTimes.com.
April 1, 2011
“Chasing Chiles” brings the problem of climate change to our plates by exploring one of North America’s most diverse food plants: chile peppers.
Kurt Michael Friese and two other chile lovers went on a year-long adventure to experience some of America’s most interesting pepper varieties – from datil peppers only found in St. Augustine, Florida to the wild chiltepin peppers of Sorona, Mexico. They tasted local cuisine and experienced various pepper cultures firsthand.But Chasing Chiles: Hot Spots Along the Pepper Trail gives the reader insight into more than just tasting and cooking these fiery foods. Friese and his colleagues spoke with farmers who are struggling to stay afloat sometimes literally as climate change wreaks havoc on weather patterns and, therefore, their yields.Earth Eats spoke with Friese from his home in Iowa. Along with co-authoring Chasing Chiles, he is the owner and Chef Emeritus of Devotay in Iowa City and the publisher of Edible Iowa River Valley magazine.
Read the whole interview at Earth Eats – Indiana Public Media.
March 21, 2011
Ancient Mexicans were gathering and eating chile peppers 9,000 years ago, but the pungent pods didn’t make it to the rest of the world until Christopher Columbus introduced them in the early 16th century. Since then chiles have become an intricate part of cuisines as varied as those of Spain, Hungary, Turkey and Indochina.
The authors of “Chasing Chiles”—Kurt Michael Friese (a chef), Kraig Kraft (an agroecologist) and Gary Paul Nabhan (an ethnobotanist)—observe that the chile has served as a vegetable (think grilled or stuffed peppers), a condiment (Tabasco), a pest repellent, a medicine (in parts of Africa chiles are a remedy for piles, though the cure may be worse than the disease) and even the poison on an archer’s arrow tip. All of which explains why more than 25 million metric tons of chili peppers are harvested annually world-wide.
Read the whole review at Book Review: Chasing Chiles – WSJ.com.
March 18, 2011
Authors Kraig Kraft, Gary Paul Nabhan and Chef Kurt Michael Friese (all three involved in Edible Communities magazines) traveled the Southwest and Mexico searching out the story of climate change, the most controversial topic of our time, narrowed through the lens of the tiny yet iconic chile pepper and those who farm, cook and eat this fiery and culturally symbolic ingredient. “We had a hunch that climate change wasn’t just out there—in the polar ice caps and in receding glaciers—but in here, in our food system, in our daily bread as well,” the three self-proclaimed “chileheads” write in the introduction. Surprisingly, the chile is a perfect food to follow; it has spread in various varieties to all six inhabited continents and has found its way into main dishes of numerous ethnicities. Part travel narrative, part gastro-exploration, the first chapter had me hooked. I was also pleasantly surprised to read about a pepper that takes its name from a city right here in Wisconsin.
Read the rest at NOTABLE EDIBLES | Spring 2011.