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Chasing Chiles: Hot Spots along the Pepper Trail Paperback – March 16, 2011

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Chasing Chiles: Hot Spots along the Pepper Trail + The Complete Chile Pepper Book: A Gardener's Guide to Choosing, Growing, Preserving, and Cooking
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Chelsea Green Publishing (March 16, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1603582509
  • ISBN-13: 978-1603582506
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #997,785 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


Kirkus Reviews-
Three self-described "gastronauts" plumb climate change through the piquant prism of chile peppers.The journey is the destination as the earnest trio launch their "spice ship" throughout the United States and Mexico to learn how shifting weather patterns have been affecting the noble pepper's destiny-and the fate of those who rely on the crop. The authors-a chef, an agroecologist and an ethnobotanist-rely on listening (and, of course, eating) during their one-year odyssey, harvesting anecdotes to better understand the global dilemma. "We had a hunch that climate change wasn't just out there-in the polar ice caps and in receding glaciers-but in here, in our food system," they write. On their travels, the authors meet men like Fernando Nino Estudillo, a spice trader in Sonora who describes his recent quandary: "I've been ten years in the business; most years I drive truckloads of chiltepines to Tijuana myself. Only this last year has the wild chile crop ever failed me...I didn't even make a single trip to the border." But it's not all serious-the trio relishes chiles, after all. In Florida, as they prepare to dig into a jar of datil peppers in white vinegar, they write, "We smiled at one another like old junkies who have just discovered that someone left a couple of joints in their midst."The occasionally florid writing notwithstanding, the book provides well-crafted regional recipes and edifying passages about the surveyed chiles.

"Chasing Chiles makes you feel like you are riding shotgun on Gary, Kraig and Kurt's Spice Ship! This book is a agri-culinary-eco-botanical odyssey that brings some of the most important issues about food, eating, and the impact of climate change to the fore in a way that is both engaging and compelling. A truly pleasurable read for anyone who appreciates authentic flavors and the pleasures of the table--and of course, the wisdom of our farmers. Practical principles we can all "swallow" is the guiding light here."--Tracey Ryder, CEO, Edible Communities

"Chasing Chiles is truly one of the most inspiring and unique treatments of climate change in current literature. The book provides us with an entirely fresh and critical perspective on this contentious issue directly from farmers and chefs, focusing on one particular crop. And the proposed solution to this complex problem is both plain and prudent: 'Eat and farm as if the earth matters,' as we should have been doing all along."--Frederick Kirschenmann, Distinguished Fellow, Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, and President of Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture.

"This book will fascinate not only chile aficionados, but also those students of biodiversity who are alarmed at the disastrous effect that climate change is wreaking on our food crops in general. With this book in hand, I happily climbed aboard the authors' Spice Ship to embark on their personal odyssey, and saw up close the devastating effects of climate change on the environment, farmers, and their crops whose very existence is at stake."--Diana Kennedy, author of The Essential Cuisines of Mexico and The Art of Mexican Cooking

"An instant classic of chile pepper lore, Chasing Chiles is the best social history of chiles since Amal Naj's Peppers from 1992. In fact, I think it's better-because it's not just journalism; it has fascinating science and entertaining humor as well. Highly recommended!"--Dave DeWitt, "The Pope of Peppers" and coauthor of The Complete Chile Pepper Book

"The noble chile--and its equally noble growers--illustrate the key principle we need for a world stressed by an ever-more-fickle climate: resilience. This book will make you understand the situation far better than most dry tomes on the subject."--Bill McKibben, author of Eaarth, Founder of

"Chasing Chiles is nothing short of a brilliant ethno-bio-culinary convergence. It accomplishes what so very few books do; marrying place to flavor and science, the result is a visceral understanding of the profound impact climate change has on the global community and the foods that we always seem to take for granted. Kurt Friese, Kraig Kraft, and Gary Nabhan have produced a must-read classic for all time."--Elissa Altman, founder of

"How can our hemisphere's "spice of life" be ignored after reading Chasing Chiles? I mean, what will there be to live for?"--Wes Jackson, President, The Land Institute

"All food has a story behind it--a story about people, culture, land, ecology, and economy. Chasing Chiles looks at the stories behind 6 chile pepper varieties, and the land, culture, food traditions, and farmers that, together, make their existence possible, and the changing climate that threatens all. But this isn't just about vulnerability; it is a book about the hope and resilience we create when we eat food with a story that makes us proud."--Josh Viertel, President, Slow Food USA

"A treasure trove of chile lore and a wake-up call to everyone who cares about real food, Chasing Chiles will amuse and alarm you. These three gastronauts carry a wealth of culinary and botanical knowledge, and their journeys in their Spice Ship uncover an incredibly diverse world of chiles that is changing with breathtaking speed. Stop worrying about the impact of climate change on future harvests; cross your fingers for this year's instead."--Rowan Jacobsen, author of American Terroir and Fruitless Fall: The Collapse of the Honey Bee and the Coming Agricultural Crisis

About the Author

Gary Nabhan is the W.K. Kellogg Endowed Chair in Sustainable Food Systems at the University of Arizona, as well as the permaculture designer and orchard-keeper of Almuniya de los Zopilotes Experimental Farm in Patagonia, Arizona. Widely acknowledged as a pioneer in the local-food movement and grassroots seed conservation, Nabhan was honored by Utne Reader in 2011 as one of twelve people making the world a better place to live. A recipient of a MacArthur Genius Award, his twenty-four books have been translated into six languages.

Kraig Kraft is an agroecologist and writer based in Managua, Nicaragua. He completed his PhD on the origins and diversity of wild and domesticated chile peppers at the University of California, Davis. Kraft is the author of a popular blog titled Chasing Chiles, and has written for several regional magazines, including Edible Sacramento, as well as technical journals, and is currently working on a coffee sustainability project in Central America. He is the author of Chasing Chiles: Hot Spots along the Pepper Trail, along with Gary Paul Nabhan and Kurt Michael Friese.

Customer Reviews

This book is a great way to learn about the environmental impacts climate change has had on our planet.
As much as I wanted to like this book, and as sympathetic as I may be to the message they're trying to convey, I found it more than a little disappointing.
Michael J. Edelman
The book is hard to classify--travelogue, food history, recipe book--it has all of these elements and more.
Amazon Customer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Mrs. C TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 22, 2011
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I expected a cookbook with background; it's more like a history, background, and biology of chilies with a few incidental (and authentic) recipes. There is a lot of 'climate change' talk and it may veer into areas that not all agree with regarding our changing climate and the cause (or not) of such changes. There is a lot of personal contact with growers of chilies, in all it's reward and devastation of their lands. It puts a human face to the food we eat.

If you like the kind of book that is recipe-heavy with minimal history or background about dishes, this is not your book. If you are more interested in the how/why of your food, where it comes from, and the personal travails of those who grow it, you'll enjoy this one. There are a few select recipes included that call for the various types of peppers that are detailed in the book; you may or may not be able to find these easily but the recipes are well written and balanced in their ingredients and would tend to appeal to a wide range of people. It's not just a book that people who only enjoy hot spicy chilies would enjoy, the book details so many varieties that have wide appeal.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By S. J. Cowan VINE VOICE on June 30, 2011
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Chasing Chiles was not what I had, at first, expected. I was expecting a cookbook full of recipes with some historical and climate information mixed in. Instead what I found was an account of three men - an ethnobotanist, a chef, and an agroecologist - as they travel the world in search of heirloom chilies and discuss how climate change, as well as other factors, has impacted chilies and the importance of diversity as our climate continues to undergo changes. Sprinkled throughout this account were a select few, authentic recipes using different chilies.

This book is not a fast read, as it is providing a lot of information, but it is well written. I would especially recommend it for fans of history, the environmental sciences and those who enjoy cooking shows as it is a mix of all three areas. Just remember: this is not a cookbook - while the recipes are good, they are still few and far between so I would not recommend it for purely that purpose.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By M. Hill TOP 500 REVIEWER on June 15, 2011
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
From page one, I was completely engrossed in the road trip detailed in Chasing Chiles. The book is infinitely readable and the locales exotic, although the gastronauts traveling in the Spice Ship was a bit too cloying for my taste. Thankfully, the story overshadowed that silliness.

Interwoven throughout the book is a serious message about global warming and the reality of farming. It is an ambitious endeavor to try to gracefully wedge those weighty subjects in with a gastronomical chile adventure and not detract from the tale. This complex writing task doesn't wholly succeed.

The book isn't really aimed at the chile devotee, but rather a consumer concerned with preserving our planet. While reading the book, at times it appeared that exposing the reader to the social messages was the primary goal of the three authors, which sometimes caused the story to feel out of balance. So to some degree, the book could have instead focused on a search for disappearing varieties of heirloom squash or tomatoes with the same result. Of course, tomatoes and squash don't possess the same fan base as chiles.

If expecting a treatise on the many varieties of chiles, or a cookbook (there are thirteen recipes) incorporating them, this book may not be for you. But, for readers seeking an entertaining and enlightening book with a message of social conscience and consequence, this book will be a great fit.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Jennifer Casey on April 7, 2011
Format: Paperback
The book Chasing Chiles, Hot Spots Along the Pepper Trail is not merely a tome dedicated to exploring climate change and it's impacts on agriculture, though it does this well, it is a celebration of life. By focusing in on the stories of one food, chile peppers, the three authors were able to dig deeply into the complex ways in which all food touches our lives, providing readers (well this reader at least) with enough sustenance to care deeply about the fate of chiles specifically and food, land, and culture, in general through learning about the fragility and import of biodiversity in our food system. I find myself left with not just a taste for more chile peppers, but with a sense of concern, and conversely, a hope for their future.

Written by three active figures in the good food movement--chef and Slow Food USA board member Kurt Michael Friese; author, conservationist, ethnobotanist, father of Renewing America's Food Traditions Alliance, and local food hero Gary Paul Nabhan, and my friend and fellow Slow Food Biodiversity committee member the agroecologist Kraig Kraft--this work brings together the insights of their varied expertise to explore the vast ramifications of climate change on food.

The three gastronauts take us from Sonora and its Chiltepines, to Florida and its Datils, to the Yucatan and its Habaneros, to the Gulf Coast and its Tabascos, to New Mexico and its diverse Native Chiles, to Maryland and the history of Fish peppers, and to Wisconsin and Southern Illinois and Beaver Dams, telling the stories of peppers and the amazing people dedicated to keeping them available. They weave in language, history, music, art, politics, tragedies, and recipes along the way.

Threats to biodiversity are in the multitude.
Read more ›
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