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Gourmet Aleppo pepper: a culinary casualty of the Syria war

For Americans following the war in Syria, Aleppo is the dateline of major clashes between the army and rebels. But for those with gourmet tastes, it's also the name of a pepper they'd prefer not do without.

By Ron SchererStaff writer / August 1, 2012



New York

American kitchens have pots and pans from France, water from Fiji, out-of-season fruit from the Southern Hemisphere, and spices from exotic places around the world.

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But, what happens when there is a conflict somewhere in the world that prevents one of those goods from getting to our well-stocked larders?

In the interconnected world, they can become culinary casualties of war.

That’s the case with Aleppo pepper, which originates from the region around war-torn Aleppo, Syria. Many spice stores and wholesalers say they can no longer buy the mildly hot pepper.

The disappearance of the chili from many restaurants and shelves illustrates how a conflict thousands of miles away can affect everyday life. On a far larger scale, last summer, President Obama released oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve because the war in Libya was causing prices to run up. During World War II, the US embarked on an effort to create synthetic rubber since the Japanese controlled the natural rubber supply in South East Asia.

“When you have a global economy, what happens anywhere happens everywhere,” says economist Joel Naroff of Naroff Economic Advisors in Holland, Pa.

Mr. Naroff says that the largest impact of war on everyday life was after World War II. Because most of the world’s industrial base had been destroyed, it created a boom in the US, which still had the capacity to produce goods and services.

“We were the only supplier of goods and services for the rest of the decade until the rest of the world rebuilt,” he says. “It laid the foundation for 40 years of strong economic growth.”

In the case of peppers, the effect is far more modest, affecting mainly spice shops and restaurants and a small number of home chefs who enjoy it’s almost smoky flavor.

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