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Chiles are an ancient food, New Mexico Chiles are a vital product of a cuisine unique to the state.Please support the chili growers in New Mexico if you are able.

ALBUQUERQUE N.M. (Reuters) – The green chile peppers roasting aromatically outside an Albuquerque supermarket are perhaps New Mexico’s most famed and recognizable product.

But these pungent palate pleasers are under threat from shrinking harvests and tough competition from foreign imports.

“It’s the essence of New Mexico,” said Shawn Barela, a lover of chile peppers just having made a five-hour round trip to Hatch, a village in Dona Ana County world renown for the quality of its chile.

“It’s got a unique taste you can’t find anyplace else,” Barela said, watching a store clerk turn a large metal drum to roast one of the two 40-pound sacks of green chiles he had brought back with him.

The annual chile festival in Hatch, which has fewer than 2,000 residents, is an exuberant affair that each Labor Day draws 10 times that number of visitors.

September is marked by the aroma of roasting chile in supermarket parking lots and on backyard grills throughout New Mexico. Locals bring peppers to rotate in large barrels over a propane flame, slowly darkening the skin from green to light brown in a process that not only brings out their flavor but helps preserve the chiles for freezing and use in meals for much of the rest of the year.

Year-round sunshine in the southern part of the state, combined with nutrient rich soil in the Hatch Valley, make home-grown chiles the finest in the world, locals say.

But few like to talk about the diminishing crop. The size of the New Mexico chile pepper harvest shrank by more than 40 percent over the last decade, from nearly 110,000 tons in 2004 to some 65,000 tons in 2013, according to the U.S. and New Mexico Departments of Agriculture.

The crop’s value also has seen a sharp decline. In 2012, New Mexico chile farmers brought in a total of $65.4 million, compared with last year’s estimated $49.5 million.

“I don’t think we’ll ever stop growing chile here on a small level, but our nationwide market is definitely endangered,” said Jaye Hawkins, administrator at the New Mexico Chile Association, which advocates on behalf of local growers.

HOT COMPETITION

Hawkins attributed the beginning of the local crop’s decline to the North American Free Trade Agreement in the mid 1990s which flooded the market with Mexican chile.

Rival growers in nations such as China, India and Peru also benefit from lower labor and production costs.

A local ties a ristra to dry chile peppers in Hatch, New Mexico in an undated photo provided by the …
“These are really large challenges that make it difficult for us to compete,” Hawkins said.

More than 4,000 full-time and thousands of part-time seasonal workers are employed in chile farming in New Mexico. Hawkins said she feared for their future if the competition from overseas heats up.

About 82 percent of chile peppers consumed in the United States are now imported, and producers in New Mexico have had to fight to make their brand stand apart – in much the way farmers label “Florida” oranges or “California” grapes.

In 2012, the state legislature signed into law the New Mexico Chile Advertising Act, which prohibits marketing peppers produced in other states as authentic New Mexico chile.

The law, enforced by the state’s Department of Agriculture, requires restaurants to post prominently that the chile peppers used in their meals were grown elsewhere.

Failure to comply can result in a “stop sale” order, and Hawkins estimated that nearly two dozen summonses have been issued so far.

“This helps us raise awareness that chile advertised as being from New Mexico is actually from New Mexico,” she said. “It helps bring the brand back.”

(Reporting by Joseph Kolb; Editing by Daniel Wallis, Jill Serjeant and Gunna Dickson)

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Suddenly there was a word for chili peppers. Information about archaeological remains of ancient chili peppers in Mexico along with a study of the appearance of words for chili peppers in ancient dialects helped researchers to understand where jalapeños were domesticated and highlight the value of multi-proxy data analysis. Their results are from one (Kraig Kraft et al.) of nine papers presented in a special feature issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on plant and animal domestication edited by Dolores Piperno, staff scientist emerita at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and Curator of South American Archaeology at the National Museum of Natural History and Greger Larson of Durham University in England.

Humans evolved about 200,000 years ago. We spent 95 percent of human history as hunter-gatherers. Why did agriculture begin to emerge in human cultures about 12,000 years ago? Was it the result of a prime mover: divine inspiration, environmental change or population growth? What cultural and natural processes led to the domesticated species that supply most of the world’s foods today? The complexity of these questions requires multidisciplinary research. Bringing together scientists from a wide range of disciplines involved in domestication studies, Larson and Piperno organized a meeting funded and hosted by the National Evolutionary Synthesis Centre in 2011. The PNAS special feature is a result of the meeting.

“Having archaeologists and geneticists talking to and collaborating with each other and a suite of new techniques to play with is radically changing the way we think about domestication,” said Piperno.

The overview paper (Larson and Piperno et al.) that introduces the special issue emphasizes the need to use both archaeological and genetic evidence to sort out the unique processes of domestication that occurred at about the same time around the world from “predomestication cultivation”—plants cultivated over many generations that still have features of wild plants—and the presence of animals in association with humans to truly domesticated organisms that exhibit very specific traits like large seeds, bigger flowers, reduction in physical and chemical defenses in plants and altered coat color, floppy ears and baby faces (facial neotony) in animals.

Papers in the special feature cover both older and more recent issues in the study of domestication. New genetic screening techniques and the ability to sequence DNA from ancient specimens led Greger Larson and his group at Durham University (Linus Flink et al.) to caution that using modern genetic data alone to guess which genes may have been involved in domestication origins may be misleading. They compared DNA from 80 chickens excavated from 12 different archaeological sites in Europe dated from 280 BC to the 18th Century to modern chicken DNA. Sequencing revealed that yellow-skinned chickens were probably not common early in the domestication process. Their work suggests that yellow skin became the norm only about 500 years ago, probably as a result of global commerce.

Addressing a long-debated question—why hunters and gatherers became farmers—Gremillion, Barton, and Piperno review theories and explanations for agricultural origins, making the case that evolutionary approaches are essential because they offer coherent, empirically testable reconstructions of human behavior.
The authors of the overview paper (Larson and Piperno et al.) expect more exciting results as researchers from around the world and from many disciplines work together to nail down the environmental and ecological contexts of domestication and the shift from hunting and gathering to cultivation and herding. As they say in the paper abstract: “It is difficult to overstate the cultural and biological impacts that the domestication of plants and animals has had on our species. … the next decade will yield even more substantial insights not only into how domestication took place, but also when and where it did, and where and why it did not.”

Original article:

Phys.org

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Smithsonian archaeologist, Dolores Piperno, measures a teosinte plant growing under past climate conditions. Credit: Sean Mattson, STRI

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Birthplace of Chili Pepper Farming Revealed

Chili peppers reign as the world’s most widely cultivated spice crop; farmers grow them in bulk, and self-described chili-heads breed ever-spicier varieties of the fruit. But before they conquered cuisines around the globe, chili peppers were domesticated in Central and South America.

Now, scientists say they’ve found the hotspot where ancient farmers first cultivated Capsicum annuum, the most common kind of chili pepper.

By drawing on genetic, archaeological, linguistic and ecological evidence, the researchers found that chili farming was born in central-east Mexico. [Myth or Truth? 7 Ancient Health Ideas Explained]

“Identifying the origin of the chili pepper is not just an academic exercise,” senior author of the study Paul Gepts, a plant scientist at the University of California, Davis, said in a statement. “By tracing back the ancestry of any domesticated plant, we can better understand the genetic evolution of that species and the origin of agriculture — a major step in human evolution in different regions of the world.”

Genetic material from dozens of samples of farm-raised and wild chili peppers seemed to point to northeastern Mexico as the origin of domestication for C. annuum, the researchers found. But the scientists also looked at archaeological evidence for the peppers and ecological predictions of where the plant might have grown in climates of the past. They even looked at which ancient vocabularies included words for chili peppers. When these factors were taken into consideration, the birthplace of chili agriculture shifted farther south, to Mexico’s central-east region.

Christine Hastorf, a researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, who studies ancient humans’ use of plants, says combining multiple data sets and drawing on four different fields of study greatly enriches the research.

“But the weakest link is the archaeological data by far,” Hastorf, who was not involved in the study, but reviewed it, told Live Science. She noted the authors only have two data points for their map of archaeological evidence of Capsicum annum: one from Romero Cave in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas and the other from Coxcatlán Cave, farther south, in the state of Puebla, both estimated to be around 7,000 to 9,000 years old based on contextual evidence. These two samples might not be representative of the origin of chili pepper domestication, but rather chance findings from where archaeologists happened to dig and look for traces of ancient plants, Hastorf said.

Hastorf also thinks it is interesting that the genetic data pointed to northeastern Mexico as the origin for chili farming. She thinks it’s possible the peppers could have easily been transported farther south.

“The thing that’s nice about chili peppers is that they can be eaten raw, they can be dried, they’re light — they’re very transportable,” Hastorf said. “You can imagine how fairly easily the chili pepper could spread.”

Hastorf also pointed out that the new research on Capsicum annuum fills in just one part of the history of domestication: There are four other species of Capsicum that originated in South America and may have been domesticated much earlier than their Mesoamerican cousin. Hastorf is publishing a study on Peru’s Huaca Prieta, an ancient site on the Pacific coast where archaeologists have found traces of all four of South America’s native chili peppers. These plants were likely domesticated elsewhere in the continent — in the Andes and eastern Amazon — but seem to have been brought to Huaca Prieta more than 7,000 years ago.

The results of the new study were published online today (April 21) in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Follow Megan Gannon on Twitter and Google+. Follow us @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on Live Science.

Original article

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Topi: Chili peppers

Central-east Mexico gave birth to the domesticated chili pepper — now the world’s most widely grown spice crop — reports an international team of researchers, led by a plant scientist at the University of California, Davis.

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 found.

The region also is different from areas of origin that have been suggested for common bean and corn, which were presumably domesticated in Western Mexico.

The study findings are published online on April 21 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, as part of a series of research papers on plant and animal domestication.

Crop domestication, the process of selectively breeding a wild plant or animal species, is of increasing interest to scientists.

“Identifying the origin of the chili pepper is not just an academic exercise,” said UC Davis plant scientist Paul Gepts, the study’s senior author. “By tracing back the ancestry of any domesticated plant, we can better understand the genetic evolution of that species and the origin of agriculture — a major step in human evolution in different regions of the world,” he said.

“This information, in turn, better equips us to develop sound genetic conservation programs and increases the efficiency of breeding programs, which will be critically important as we work to deal with climate change and provide food for a rapidly increasing global population,” Gepts added.

Study co-author Gary P. Nabhan, an ethnobiologist and agroecologist at the University of Arizona’s Southwest Center noted: “This is the first research ever to integrate multiple lines of evidence in attempts to pinpoint where, when, under what ecological conditions, and by whom a major global spice plant was domesticated.

“In fact, this may be the only crop-origins research to have ever predicted the probable first cultivators of one of the world’s most important food crops,” Nabhan said.

To determine crop origins, scientists have traditionally studied the plants’ genetic makeup in geographic areas where they have observed high diversity among the crop’s wild ancestors. More recently, they have also examined archaeological remains of plants, including pollen, starch grains and even mineralized plant secretions.
For this chili pepper study, the researchers used these two traditional approaches but also considered historical languages, looking for the earliest linguistic evidence that a cultivated chili pepper existed.

They also developed a model for the distribution of related plant species, to predict the areas most environmentally suitable for the chili pepper and its wild ancestors.

The genetic evidence seemed to point more to northeastern Mexico as the chili pepper’s area of domestication; however there was collectively more evidence from all four lines of study supporting the central-east region as the area of origin.

Source: Edited from a University of California Press Release, Contact Keith Sterling at ksterling@ucdavis.edu

Cover Photo, Top Left: Dried Chili Peppers RameshNG, Wikimedia Commons

Original article:

popular archaeology
April 21, 2014

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This photo shows the vessels that tested positive for Capsicum. Each vessel had a culinary use. Credit: Roberto Lopez and Emiliano Gallaga Murrieta

Topic Early use of peppers

Chili peppers may have been used to make spicy beverages thousands of years ago in Mexico, according to new research published November 13 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Terry Powis at Kennesaw State University and colleagues from other institutions.

Capsicum species are usually referred to as chili peppers, and their uses are well known in the history of Spain and Portugal. There are relatively few sites in Mesoamerica, Central America, and South America that contain remains of Capsicum, and therefore, we know little about how groups such as the Mayans and the Mixe-Zoquean, inhabitants of the site studied here, used chili peppers in those regions.

In this study, the authors used chemical extractions to reveal the presence of Capsicum residues in pottery samples from a site in southern Mexico. Some of these pottery vessels were over 2000 years old, dating from 400 BC to 300 AD.

They found Capsicum residue in multiple types of jars and vessels, which suggests that those cultures may have been using chili peppers for many different culinary purposes. For instance, Capsicum was found in a vessel called a sprouted jar, which is used for pouring a liquid into another container. The authors suggest that chili peppers may have been used to prepare spicy beverages or dining condiments. Powis elaborates, “The significance of our study is that it is the first of its kind to detect ancient chili pepper residues from early Mixe-Zoquean pottery in Mexico. While our findings of Capsicum species in these Preclassic pots provides the earliest evidence of chili consumption in well-dated Mesoamerican archaeological contexts, we believe our scientific study opens the door for further collaborative research into how the pepper may have been used either from a culinary, pharmaceutical, or ritual perspective during the last few centuries before the time of Christ.”

More information: Powis TG, Gallaga Murrieta E, Lesure R, Lopez Bravo R, Grivetti L, et al. (2013) Prehispanic Use of Chili Peppers in Chiapas, Mexico. PLoS ONE 8(11): e79013. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0079013

Original article:
Phys.org
November 13, 2013

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Buena Vista peru 

Topic: Ancient Feast

Gourd and squash artifacts were recovered from this sunken pit and platform in the Fox Temple at the Buena Vista site in central Peru.

My Thoughts:

This dig with its findings of manioc, chile peppers and potato’s show us that ancient man was not dependant on just his hunting skills.

This looks like a feast any one of us would enjoy-that is if they liked their food hot!

 

Ancient humans left evidence from the party that ended 4,000 years ago

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