Blog

Gary Nabhan remembers Stewart Udall

By: Gary Paul Nabhan
Published: March 29, 2010

On Saturday, March 20, the West lost Stewart Udall, one of the greatest conservationists this region has given to the world. The man exemplified vision and decency, conservation and consilience, in an era when conflict and entrenchment have become all too common.

As Congress fought bitterly over health care reform that same weekend, voting almost entirely upon party lines, I remembered a story that Udall told me as we celebrated his 80th birthday ...

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What is the Relevance of Vavilov in the Year of 2010?

Gary Nabhan was recently given the honor of presenting the biennial Vavilov Memorial Lecture in Moscow and offering a similar lecture in Saint Petersburg, and was further honored with the gift of the Vavilov Medal. These are his reflections after years of retracing Vavilov through the centers of food diversity, while writing the book Where Our Food Comes From, and after spending time with the staff of the Vavilov General Genetics Institute in Moscow, and VIR in Saint Petersburg.

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The Bazaar World of Spice Trade – A Report from Asia Minor

I feel a familiarity, even a universality, whenever I enter a spice market in any part of the world: an Arabian souq, a Mexican mercado, a Turkish carsisi.  It is not just my familiarity with the spices themselves that makes me feel this way. Many of them have traveled thousands of miles across land by camel, or water by dhow, to reach marketplaces in all for corners of earthly universe. This is the ancient form of the global economy, and ...

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The Further Adventures of Hadji Ali

Last spring I was invited to join forces with a Turkish documentary TV and film maker named Ardan Zenturk in a retrospective on Hadji Ali, the first Arab of the Islamic faith to become a naturalized citizen on the invitation of the U.S. government. I had already written about his time in Arizona in the Journal of Arizona History and in my book Arab-American, which won the Southwest Book Award; the chapter on Hadji Ali was posted on the ...

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Ruminating along the Spice Route in Turkey

When one travels, it is hard not to be struck by just how much of the world’s food biodiversity has found new homes and adapted to new places over the centuries. Visiting markets in Turkey for the first time in my life, I am amazed at how many Old Friends from the New World show up in the Turk’s souks or spice bazaars: cayenne, bell, paprika and cherry peppers, Jamaican allspice, chocolate, vanilla, tomatoes, squashes, fint corns and beans.

Soon after ...

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Let 2010 Be the Year of the Heirloom Apple

While the Chinese will be celebrating 2010 as the Year of the Tiger, we in America have historically had no tigers except those in zoos and circuses. But what we once have had many of—heirloom apples—are now in danger of becoming as rare as tigers are in Asia. Of some 15,000 to 16,000 apples varieties that have been named, grown and eaten on the North American continent, only about 3,000 remain accessible to American orchard-keepers, gardeners, chefs and home ...

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Holidays: Days of Feasting, Days of Fasting

The end-of-the-year word is out: one in seven American families is having trouble putting food on the table, just as we try, each in our own way, to celebrate the Holidays. But what does it mean to celebrate and feast on a Holy Day with hunger at the highest levels it has been in years? With the economic downturn of the last year, far more of our neighbors have had to rely on food banks and food stamps than at ...

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Gifts from the Wizards of the East – Incense Spices and Stones Fit for a King

The other night, as I stood in the cold, crisp air to watch the meteor shower of the Geminids falling over a desert mountain, I remembered how, as a child, I loved the story of the three Wise Men from the East following a star until they found where a Semitic child named Yeshua had been born. These wise men, magi, shamans or wizards from the East knelt on the ground before the baby, and gave him gifts fir for ...

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Place based foods of the borderlands weather the economic downturn – not just for the elite

This last week, I went out into the desert to find an old friend in her trailer-turned-artesanal kitchen. My friend is an Hispanic woman who lost her job after 9/11 in a borderlands community that lost thousands of more jobs during the mortgage fiasco two years ago and the more recent economic downturn.  And yet, despite all the discouraging turns that have occurred in the Tucson, Arizona economy over the last decade, I did not hear discouraging words  in Esperanza ...

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Finally, a burger with a taste of place

By: Gary Paul Nabhan
Published: June 22, 2009

Some 12 million people visit the Grand Canyon every year, but any “foodies” among them tend to be disappointed when they arrive at the rim.

Where in all this luscious landscape, they ask, is anyone serving food that tastes of this place? Why do so few restaurants in Arizona’s canyon country feature the range-fed beef or lamb, vegetables, fruits or other seasonal fare produced by local farmers and ranchers? Except at the ...

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Santa Cruz Valley Heritage Foods

Taste Here What You Can’t Just Find Anywhere, And See

For millennia, the Santa Cruz River Valley has been a natural corridor for the seasonal migration of birds as well as other wildlife, and for the cultural diffusion and exchange of foodstuffs. It harbors the northernmost populations of wild peppers known as chiltepines, but the first culinary use of chilies north of the present-day U.S./Mexico border was also recorded in one of its prehistoric villages. Other wild plants that have been ...

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Americas Apple Traditions Renewed

Perhaps it was hard at first to know whether the “antique” in the phrase, “antique apple experts,” referred to the apples or to the experts. But when the Hall of Famers of the Heirloom Apple Kingdom gathered on March 19th at the University of Wisconsin Arboretum outside of Madison, it was clear that the so-called “old-timers” invited had much to say about the current status of and future prospects for old-timey apples. Between them, they had more than 350 years ...

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Thanksgiving and the Food Crisis

It is an ironic time to be celebrating Thanksgiving, a sharing of the bounty of American farms and ranches among family, friends and neighbors. Not only are our traditional foods a fading feast, but fewer Americans than ever before may be able to access them. This year, while a million Americans may be losing their jobs, food prices have risen 5 to 7 percent; the use of food banks and food stamps is at a record high. The outlook for ...

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The Vavilov Legacy is Alive and Well

When I arrived at the National Agricultural Library just outside Washington D.C. one noon this October, a white-haired man with a commanding presence stood at the security check, impeccably dressed in an elegant suit, while his translator explained to the guard that he would be the guest of honor for an event that afternoon.

When he turned around to speak with his translator, I noticed that he had the same high brow and combed-back hair that the world’s greatest plant explorer ...

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Apples of Our Eyes, Nose and Mouths

When the leaves of New England begin to glow with crimsons, purples and golds, many of us remember that it’s time for crimson, purple and gold apples to be picked, packed, sequestered in storage sheds, or processed into cider, butter, sauces or pies.

Apples exemplify that taste of the fall for many of us, but just what kind of apples we taste depends upon just where exactly we live, and how well we know our neighboring orchard-keepers.

Some eight hundred kinds of ...

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Parque de la Papa: Vavilov’s Dream for Potatoes?

For a quarter century, the breed of ethnobotanists I’ve hung with have proposed through countless lectures and publications that crop diversity can best conserved in situ, in the cultural landscapes managed by the traditional farmers who have long been its stewards. Now, in the highlands of Peru, a dream has come true, one that would have made the late Russian seed conservationist Nikolay Vavilov giddy with delight. Vavilov himself visited the Andes some seventy years ago, during an era when ...

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The Food Crisis Is Our Energy Crisis

By Gary Paul Nabhan
for Slow Food Nation

The Earth has grown tired of making fossilized food
Tired of having to pump fossil fuel as well as
Ancient groundwater up from her very innards
To let them spill onto our fields & orchards
Where frantic crops are forced to suck it all up.
What oozed out of the aquifer and oil well
Now bleeds with additives, fertilizers & pesticides
So that we might eat.

We too have grown tired
Tired of all ...

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Of Moulds and Men

Recently appeared in Resurgence Magazine, by: Gary Paul Nabhan

Biodiversity is not just “out there” – in the rainforests, oceans and wetlands – it is here, on our plates.

I DID NOT know it by such lofty terms as food biodiversity back them, but as a child in a household of Lebanese immigrants to America, I viscerally knew that we had items in our backyard, cupboard, pantry and refrigerator that our neighbours did not. The yoghurt or lebna made by ...

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Did You Know?

  • Did you know that Gary’s essay from his Arab/American book is cover story of the July 2008 edition of the Journal of Arizona History? It includes two photos of Hadji Ali, the first Moslem Arab-American.
  • Did you know that Gary’s Wild Apples of Kazakhstan essay that was the cover story of the Spring 2008 Orion magazine is inspiring a film documentary in Kazakhstan?
  • Did you know that Gary’s botanical travels following explorer Nikolay Vavilov will be ...
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Earth Day

You could feel that spring had come to the Berkshires after a long and gray winter. Wherever we went around Great Barrington, farmers and gardeners were hoeing the ground, planting seeds, adjusting water lines, patching up chicken coops, or moving livestock between pastures. By noon on Saturday, many of us congregated at the Route 7 Grill near Great Barrington, to sample and discuss the foods and brews unique to the Berkshires, and ponder what they meant to our society as ...

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