Food Heritage and History

Desert wisdom and agriculture

By Kay Watt

A miller’s daughter spun gold thread from hay. Stone soup fed an entire town. A farmer grew tons of juicy melons in one of the harshest desert climates in the Americas. In each story, something is created from nothing. Of the three, only the story of the Chihuahuan melon farmer is neither fairy tale nor parable. Centuries-old technology known as olla irrigation breathes life into acres of melon vines, enabling them to thrive in an otherwise inhospitable ...

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31st National Cowboy Poetry Gathering Features Vaqueros From Baja, Mexico

The 31st National Cowboy Poetry Gathering will celebrate a little-known corner of Mexico — Baja California Sur — and its rich ranchero culture. From Jan. 26-31, 2015, the small high-desert town of Elko, Nev., will welcome Baja’s vaqueros, who will share with their American cowboy counterparts the traditional acoustic music, ranch cuisine, local art and craftwork, traditional lore and humor of their Californio roots.

The National Cowboy Poetry Gathering has a long history of organizing cultural exchanges with people from around ...

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Cumin, Camels, and Caravans: A Spice Odyssey

History Today | September 2014, issue 64:9, pp 58-59, review by Gail Simmons

The closest we armchair travellers normally get to the olfactory sensation of walking through the globe’s most fragrant souks is opening the doors of our spice cupboards. The bottles may be sealed shut but the aroma of their contents —cardamom and cumin, cinnamon and saffron, turmeric and vanilla — wafts towards our nostrils and for a brief moment we are not in our kitchens ...

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Rose to Damascus: A book about spices, their trade routes, and more

Santa Fe + New Mexican
By: Paul Weideman

Gary Paul Nabhan weaves a fascinating story in his new book, Cumin, Camels, and Caravans: A Spice Odyssey. He tracks the pathways along which traders carried spices — piquant and pungent, delicious and dreamy — from their places of origin to the rest of the world. His account is peppered with recipes as well as essays on cardamom, cloves, Damascus rose, saffron, vanilla, tuocha pu-erh, and 20 other ...

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Blake Edgar interviews Gary Nabhan about his “spice odyssey”

Nabhan describes the critically important roles in setting the stages for globalized spice trade; and his preparation in writing Cumin, Camels, and Caravans: A Spice Odyssey.

 

1. There have been several culinary histories published about spices and about trade along the Silk Road. What inspired you to write about this subject? A colleague of mine, ethnobotanist and food historian Gene Anderson, found a remarkable coincidence: an Arab/Persian lamb and garbanzo bean stew recipe that he and colleagues recorded in ...

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Come hear Gary speaking at Overland Trout, August 11th

Come hear local author Gary Nabhan tell of his 14 country “spice odyssey” Monday August 11 at Overland Trout in Sonoita from 6:00-7:30 pm

 

• Commentaries on Gary’s new book, Cumin, Camels and Caravans between dinner courses, with signing afterwards
• Adaptations of ancient Middle Eastern recipes from book by Chef Greg La Prad
• Limited seating, rsvp by August 9 to Overland Trout, 520 455-9316 or email Jennifer La Prad
• ...

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UA researcher and colleagues discover the birthplace of the chili pepper

In the Southwest, the chili pepper is practically a dietary staple. It gives salsa a spicy crunch, it brings depth to Mexican sauces, and provides an extra kick to Sonoran hot dogs.

Plenty of other world cuisines rely on it too, from China to India to Thailand. But Latin America, researchers have confirmed, is where it started.

In a study of global significance, researchers have figured out where the first domesticated chili pepper crop was farmed. University of Arizona ethnobiologist and agroecologist ...

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Finding fire: Scientists trace chiles’ DNA to Mexico

By: Ryan Van Velzer, azcentral.com

An international team that includes a University of Arizona researcher has delved into the DNA of the chile and found its Eden: a valley in east-central Mexico where indigenous farmers domesticated the fiery pepper more than 6,500 years ago.

The team, using linguistic and ecological evidence as well as archaeological and genetic data, traced the ancestry of the first domesticated chiles to the Tehuacan Valley stretching from southern Puebla and northern Oaxaca to ...

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Chili Peppers First Cultivated in Mexico

 

The domesticated chili pepper—the world’s most widely grown spice crop—got its start in central-east Mexico, report researchers.

Results from the four-pronged investigation—based on linguistic and ecological evidence as well as the more traditional archaeological and genetic data—suggest a regional, rather than a geographically specific, birthplace for the domesticated chili pepper.

That region, extending from southern Puebla and northern Oaxaca to southeastern Veracruz, is further south than was previously thought, the researchers find.

The region also is different from areas of origin that have ...

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Pioneer of the Local Food Movement Gary Paul Nabhan Speaks Oct. 31 at Appalachian State University

Oct. 25, 2013. Gary Paul Nabhan, internationally celebrated conservation scientist, writer, food and farming activist and proponent of conserving the links between biodiversity and cultural diversity, will speak at Appalachian State University Oct. 31 at 4:30 p.m. in the McRae Peak Ballroom in Plemmons Student Union.

Nabhan’s lecture is sponsored by the Goodnight Family Department of Sustainable Development with support from the Appalachian Studies Program. The event is free and open to the public. For more information, call 828-262-7248.

Nabhan ...

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Conservation You Can Taste

OVER THE LAST three decades, more than one-hundred thousand plant and animal varieties and species have become endangered around the planet, many of which formerly provided humankind with food or beverages. At the same time, a remarkable counter trend has occurred in America’s gardens and orchards, and on its farms and ranch pastures.

Although virtually unnoticed in some circles, more than fifteen thousand unique vegetable, fruit, legume and grain varieties and dozens of livestock and poultry breeds have returned to U.S. ...

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Lessons from the Desert

A new book explores sustainable agriculture in in dry climates

By Ari LeVaux

Recent years have brought spikes in the frequency of strange weather patterns and severe storms, with many blaming the increase on human-caused climate change. If this new normal, as it’s being called, is here to stay, it will have profound implications on food production.

There are two basic ways that this threat to food production is being addressed. One is to develop new ...

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The Origins of Heritage Foods Revivals 1980-1985

By: Gary Paul Nabhan
Heirloom Gardener • Summer 2013
www.heirloomgardener.com

A third of a century ago, an unprecedented grassroots movement emerged from American soil.It is a movement that is still alive, one for which Heirloom Gardener magazine has become the freshest and mostly-widely read source of information and inspiration. It may well be worth your while to reflect on the origins of the social change movement to which you belong, for it is a wellspring of food ...

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Can Southern Arizona be protein self-sufficient in the face of climate change?

On a hot June day in the Flowing Wells neighborhood of northeast Tucson, 45 ranchers, farmers, chefs, butchers and range ecologists met to talk about the future of meat production, processing and local distribution in Southern Arizona.  Most of the participants knew that meat prices and demand were at an all-time high in Tucson and North America as a whole, but they also some of the reasons for why that was true: drought had knocked back rangeland cattle numbers; the ...

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Q & A – Growing Food in a Hotter, Drier Land

Ben Watson: What does global climate change have to do with America’s failure to produce more food than its people consume for the third straight year?

Gary Nabhan: For starters, we had over 2,200 counties declared national drought disaster areas in 2012, four times more than in 2011. Farmers applied for $13 billion dollars of federal insurance due to crop failures and reduced yields, more than twice the running average per year. Increasingly unprecedented climatic disruption is affecting farmers, ranchers, foragers ...

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Growing Food in a Hotter, Dryer Land: Lessons from Desert Farmers on Adapting to Climate Uncertainty

By: Publishers Weekly

Nabhan, an ethnobotanist, cofounder of Native Seeds/SEARCH, and prolific author, draws on his longtime relationships with the land and people of the Southwest U.S., together with wisdom from farmers and gardeners in Egypt, Mexico, and other dry places, to suggest solutions for growing food and developing agricultural resiliency as climate change affects wider swaths of the planet. He discusses using hedge fences (he calls them “fredges”) to minimize flood damage; choosing ancient and traditional methods for water ...

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An Effort to Add a Key Ingredient to the Slow Food Movement: Investor Money

By KATHRYN SHATTUCK

BOULDER, Colo. — “Welcome, pig lovers, and welcome, earthworms!” Woody Tasch bellowed from the stage of the Boulder Theater, where 650 food entrepreneurs and investors had wedged themselves for the opening day of the fourth Slow Money National Gathering.

Mr. Tasch whipped the crowd into a frenzy on Monday morning — shouts of “It’s crazy!” and the random boo and hiss ricocheted through the audience — as he discussed the moral failures of unsustainable corporate farming and financiers ...

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Growing Food in a Hotter, Drier Land

How to harvest water and nutrients, select drought-tolerant plants, and create natural diversity

With climatic uncertainty now “the new normal,” many farmers, gardeners, and orchardists in North America are desperately seeking ways to adapt how they grow food in the face of climate change. The solutions may be at our back door.

In Growing Food in a Hotter, Drier Land, Nabhan, one of the world’s experts on the agricultural traditions of arid lands, draws from the knowledge of traditional farmers in the ...

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The Wild, the Domesticated, and the Coyote-Tainted

The Trickster and the Tricked in Hunter-Gatherer versus Farmer Folklore

By: Gary Paul Nabhan
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Abstract

Folklore regarding (biological) coyotes and (the mythic) Old Man Coyote the Trickster is rich in both hunter-gatherer and farmer-herder societies in Western North America, and apparently not restricted to language group, socioeconomic status, or subsistence strategy. To date, there has yet to be a systematic comparison of hunter-gatherer versus farmer uses of ‘Coyote’ as a modifier in the secondary lexemes used to name plants ...

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Chapalote Corn – The oldest corn in North America pops back up

Article & Photo by Gary Paul Nabhan
Heirloom Gardener • Winter 2012-2013
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It is a truly remarkable irony that most Americans have never even heard of the name of the oldest heirloom maize variety on the continent, Chapalote, let alone tasted its earthy, flinty cornmeal. Corn farming in the foodscapes within the present-day United States did not begin in the Midwestern or Southern “Corn Belts,“ nor along the East Coast where Pilgrims first encountered this new ...

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