Chile Crisis of 2011 Reveals Need for More Resilience and Diversity on the Farm

by Gary Paul Nabhan, co-author of Chasing Chiles.

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.

This binational region normally produces well over 90 percent of all winter vegetables eaten in the United States. The cold snap damaged fruits and leafy vegetables from the Imperial Valley of California and the Yuma area of Arizona, clear to Los Mochius and Culiacan in Sinaloa, Mexico.

Open fields in the region suffered damage on 85-90 percent of their peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, and melons, while those in hoop houses and greenhouses varied in levels of damage from 60 percent to 80 percent, depending on the local microclimate.

And in Florida — the other winter source of these vegetables for American eaters — abnormally cold weather had already disrupted crop production over the previous two months prior to the freeze. As Gregg Biada, vice president of Global Fresh Import and Export told The Packer, a leading reporter of agri-business trends, “Things got really crazy … prices went through the roof.”

Continue reading this article at Grist.

Chasing Chiles: Hot Spots Along the Pepper Trail is available now.

Read The Book

Chasing Chiles

Hot Spots along the Pepper Trail


Recent Articles

No Forbidden Fruit: Life-Changing Applesauce Recipe

In her new book The Fruit Forager’s Companion, author Sara Bir encourages readers to embrace the magic of hunting for foraged fruit—delivering a how-to guide devoted to the secret, sweet bounty just outside our front doors. Bir, a seasoned chef, gardener, and forager, primes readers on foraging basics, demonstrates gathering and preservation techniques, and shares…

Read More

Recipe: Simple, Greek-Style Yogurt

If you’ve got cows, you likely already know the joys of making your own yogurt. It’s easy, delicious, and oh-so-rewarding! If you don’t have cows, we think this recipe will convince you that you need some. The following excerpt is from Keeping a Family Cow by Joann S. Grohman. It has been adapted for the…

Read More

Recipe: Country Elderberry Wine

There’s really nothing better than sitting down after a long day with a glass of wine and the sun setting in the distance. Unless of course you foraged for the berries for said wine, crushed them by hand, added in some sugar, water, and citric acid, bottled it up, and waited six months before you…

Read More

Daylily Dangers and Delights

Got some invasive daylilies taking over your garden? Instead of weeding them out why not eat them instead? A common vegetable in China and Japan, daylilies are more than a pretty flower. In her new book, Forage, Harvest, Feast, forager, and author Marie Viljoen describes their taste as “Green bean meets white asparagus by way…

Read More

The Surprisingly Sweet Secret of Crab Apples

Sure, visiting an orchard to pick apples is fun but foraging for crab apples in your neighborhood is even better! These often overlooked pieces of fruit are the unsung heroes of the apple family for many reasons: they’re all over town, easy on the wallet, and, with a little creativity and patience, can be used…

Read More