Monday, September 7, 2009

From garden to table: Black Aztec success in the kitchen

Blueberries, move over. There's another blue food to earn a spot in the garden, but it's no berry and the name is Black Aztec corn.

I thought it would take more than a week to be able to share results on a so-not-yellow corn experiment, but I didn't realize that at the time of the last post, the cobs were just about 99% dried and ready to be ground into meal. What do I know about drying corn? I've only ever harvested them when they were ready for boiling, so with a little intuition, a quick test trial in the grinder, and lots of dry, hot weather for 3 days in a row, all of that corn pictured in the previous entry became the makings of a really great meal. You know how they say that you learn something new everyday? Well now I can add making my own organic blue cornmeal to the list — never thought I'd be able to say that.

In retrospect, I shouldn't have worried about knowing when the kernels were dry enough to work with. A coarse, stoneground-type texture is what I was aiming for, and a pinch test between thumb and forefinger was the first indication used (if it held up then it was definitely dry). Each day I ran a few kernels in a spice grinder to check if all moisture had evaporated. Really nothing to this at all!

Blue corn kernels
I harvested the corn when the husks were completely parched and devoid of any green color. The kernels were removed (still plump as you see here) the following day, but after 3 days under a hot sun, they shriveled quite noticeably and were dry enough to spin in the grinder.

Blue cornmeal
Ready to cook. A very modest yield of 3½ cups total. The old spice grinder did the trick in small batches, but a large coffee grinder will prove indispensable if I'm to cultivate more corn next spring. 3½ cups is not enough! I keep the cornmeal in an airtight container in the freezer.

Blue corn tortillas
Blue tortillas from scratch. Insanely great stuff, and it was so quick to make that my husband took an interest and watched intently as I rolled out the pieces of dough. I used this really easy tortilla recipe from Hillbilly Housewife, following the directions down to the last word. Her recipe makes 10 but I wanted smaller rounds and divided the batch into 12 balls, rolling each to about 7½ inches in diameter.

Blue cornbread
Woohoo! It's blue! I really don't know who was more excited about the cornbread, me or my better half. Make that my better half because after one bite with turkey chile, it was seconds, then thirds. I made the sweet cornbread from All Recipes, substituting an equal amount of blue cornmeal for the yellow, but cutting the sugar to 1/2 cup.

Blue tortilla cone
The tortilla cone. My husband's answer to Konopizza, only there is nothing here that you'd find in a pizza cone. Leftover turkey chile, plain yogurt and homemade tomatillo salsa. I didn't get much from my tomatillo plant, but I do know that I will grow them again next year. The purple ones this time.

Today's high: 23°C / 73°F


  1. Too cool! Where is that corn native? Can you find it in Italy easily?

  2. love this post! hope you get a bigger yield next year!

  3. Peter - the internet jungle says a bunch of things, but I quote the Baker Creek site where I purchased the seeds from:
    [It is believed to have originated in upper New York, possibly grown by the Iroquois nation. It was first offered in seed catalogs as 'Black Mexican' in 1864.]
    I've never seen this type in Italy.

    Kat - I'm thinking of ripping out a section of the front lawn just to grow corn!

  4. Thanks for the quick reply! those tortillas look goooood. :-)

  5. if it will yield more blue corn, I would do it :)

  6. Those tortillas look wonderful! Do the corn plants take up a lot of space? I'm thinking of growing sweetcorn next year because our neighbour's were so delicious this year.

  7. I'm totally fascinated with your Tortilla cone. Your husband is clever indeed. Beautiful results from your experiment.

  8. Chaiselongue - that's a tough question because I only had a 3.5 foot square with which to put 4x4 rows. A little tight, I'd say. The plants themselves weren't as large/tall as your regular type of sweetcorn, and the harvest was only 1-2 ears per stalk.

    Gail - to have come away with anything at all (after that strong wind that knocked the stalks over) is a miracle! I think playing with our food was just an extension of our jubilation!

  9. WOW! This post was extremely helpful.
    I am growing this same corn for the first time and I can't find any information at what point I should harvest the corn. It has pasted the "milk" stage and I keep checking the corn to see if it has turn the slightest blue but no luck yet. Any advice would be helpful!
    Thanks! Awesome blog!

  10. Natalie - I simply checked the corn every other day to see if the kernels had turned color. It did take a bit of patience but eventually they'll turn blue.


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