Restoration Economy

Street Food in the Desert’s Cities: Has Tucson Become the Hub for Lunch Wagons, Taco Trucks and Sonoran Hot Dog Carts?

Did you know that Tucson and its Pima County suburbs have 12 times the number of mobile food services per capita than New York City? The county reports some 941 mobile food businesses registered for business, including 235 full service food carts, 45 “dogero” push carts, and 85 other mobile vendors in Tucson alone.

Pima County appears to have tied with Los Angeles County in California for having the highest ratio of mobile street food businesses to people of any areas in the United States, with roughly one vehicle offering food on the fly for every 1,000 residents.

A Brief History of Cross-Border Food Trade

Many U.S. residents are amazed to learn that three-fifths of the fresh produce eaten in the U.S. comes from the West Coast of Mexico, and that much of the saltwater fish and shrimp they eat may come from Mexico’s reaches of the Gulf of Mexico, Pacific Ocean and Gulf of California. However, we should not belittle New Yorkers or Minnesotans for this lack of knowledge, since few of us who live much closer to U.S./Mexico border have an accurate sense of how much of our food comes from “el otro lado”—the lands and waters on the other side.

High and dry: Southwest drought means rising food prices

Very few urban dwellers have paid attention to the catastrophic drought in the Southwest that began nearly a year ago. But last month, as farmers and ranchers assessed the year’s harvest, it became clear it had knocked back their yields and sales, while driving their costs higher than they have ever been. As the drought continues to drive both meat and vegetable food prices up over the next year, urbanites in the region and beyond will likely notice the change in prices

Mom-and-pop vs. big-box stores in the food desert

A few weeks ago, when the Obama administration released its Food Desert Locator, many of us realized that a once-good idea has spoiled like a bag of old bread. If you go online and find that your family lives in a food desert, don’t worry: You have plenty of company. One of every 10 census tracts in the lower 48 has been awarded that status.

High, dry, and up against a wall: Why water and food justice are key to ending border conflicts

For someone who lives within 12 miles of the infamous wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, it was an odd feeling to travel along the wall between Palestine and Israel last week just as Osama bin Laden’s death was announced to the world. Odd, because the parallels between the two desert regions are so remarkable.

Farming in the Time of Climate Catastrophe

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.

Chile crisis of 2011 reveals need for more resilience and diversity on the farm

What a difference a few days of aberrant weather can mean to our food security, our pocket books, and our penchant for hot sauce. The record freeze that hit the U.S. Southwest and Northern Mexico in early February is still affecting vegetable availability and food prices in general more than 6 weeks after the catastrophe. Restaurants across the U.S. are rationing peppers and tomatoes on their sandwiches and in their salsas. Prices for peppers have jumped as much as 50 percent, and for tomatoes by 15 percent, due to crop damages resulting from the worst freeze in southwestern North America since 1957.

A Rollicking Quest for Chiles ‘Along The Pepper Trail’

Everyone loves a book that has a good quest at its center, be it a great white whale, a holy grail or, in the case of ethnobotanist Gary Nabhan, chef Kurt Friese, and agro-ecologist Kraig Kraft, rare and heirloom chiles.

Their new book, Chasing Chiles: Hot Spots Along The Pepper Trail (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2011), is a rollicking ride, a “spice odyssey” that begins in Mexico and continues through several places in America where chile peppers are an integral part of the culture.