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.