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 17, 2011
Chasing Chiles co-author Kraig Kraft has a lot to tasy to his fellow New Mexicans about proposed chile labeling laws…
The news coming from New Mexico’s chile industry is disheartening. In 2010, a meager 8,700 acres were harvested, the smallest amount in 37 years. Facing stiffer competition from places overseas with cheap and abundant labor, and confronted with another prolonged drought, the future for New Mexico’s chile industry looks bleak.
While the recently passed House Bill 485, the New Mexico Chile Advertising Act, aims to protect the New Mexico chile by making it illegal for a person to “knowingly advertise, describe, label or offer for sale chile peppers as New Mexico chile, or to advertise, describe, label or offer for sale a product as containing New Mexico chile, unless the chile peppers or chile peppers in the product were grown in New Mexico,” it is too little too late.
U.S. marketplaces are flooded with cheaper produce shipped in from abroad: Fuji apples and grapes from Chile, garlic from China, cucumbers and tomatoes from Mexico.
Read the whole op-ed at ABQJournal Online » Hot Under Collar Over Fake N.M. Chiles.
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
Facing wild weather and dwindling water resources, a pepper grower says it’s time to rethink agriculture
It is spring, and I am kneeling with a few friends in front of the composted soil of the hillside terraces in my orchard-garden in the desert borderlands of Arizona. It is planting day, and as we place each variety of pepper plant into the moistened earth, we say its name aloud, as if reciting a prayer in the face of uncertainty: Chiltepin, Chile del Arbol, Tabasco, Jimmy Nardello, Datil, Beaver Dam, Yellow Hot Banana, Chimayó, Sweet Chocolate, and Sheepsnose. We hand-water each member of this tribe of peppers, place a frost-resistant row cover over it like a monk’s hood, and move on to the next, hoping for the best.
If you have farmed or gardened in the desert for any length of time, you sooner or later learn—in a thousand humbling ways, as I have—that you are not in control of even half of the most essential variables that most converge if you are to return in late summer to harvest a crop. In the face of accelerating climate change, my capacity to control critical factors and predict the outcome of my labors seems ever more limited.
Read the whole article at Farming in the Time of Climate Catastrophe – Gary Paul Nabhan – The Atlantic.
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.