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Hot Topic: A Lesson in Climate Change and Chili Peppers

Kurt Michael Friese and Kraig Kraft, who coauthored Chasing Chiles: Hot Spots Along the Pepper Trail with Gary Paul Nabhan, were featured last Friday on public radio’s Marketplace program.

Listen to the full interview here, or read the transcript below.

Kai Ryssdal: Take a moment now to consider the chili pepper. There are more than 10,000 varieties. We eat ’em. We season our food with them. They go into arthritis creams and shampoos, pesticides and, yes, pepper sprays. In 2007 — the last year we have the data for — American farmers grew more than 800,000 tons of chili peppers. Twenty-six million tons worldwide, half of that in China.

So, needless to say, they’re big business. Beyond the commercial, though, chili peppers are important in cuisines and cultures all over the world. Which helps explain why I found myself shopping for chilies in a Mexican market the other day with a chef…

Kurt Friese: I’m Kurt Friese. I’m the chef.

And an agroecologist.

Kraig Kraft: Hi, I’m Kraig Kraft. I’m the agroecologist.

A what? Let me just say he knows more about chilies than you and I would ever want to know.

Kraft: There are five domesticated chili peppers. Tobasco is one, habanero is the other one. And the rest fall under Capsicum annuum. All of these: Your bell peppers, jalapenos…

It’s Habaneros and Bells for us today. Paprika, too. That’s a dried chili. Chef Kurt explains our lunch menu is from St. Augustine, Fla.

Continue reading this piece at Marketplace.

See Chasing Chiles featured at Marketplace’s “The Big Book”.

Learn more about Chasing Chiles in our bookstore now.


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