Gardening is hardly an “instant-gratification” activity (altho’ the gardening process from the git-go is instantly gratifying to soul and body). But if you want to try the fastest seed-to-harvest corn cycle on the Planet, next summer try growing Tohono O’odham 60-day Hu:ñ! It’s the closest thing to instant-gratification-gardening. Trust the Desert People–the Tohono O’odham of southern Arizona and northwest Sonora– to have selected and perfected a flour corn fit for the rainfall vagaries of a Sonoran Desert summer! Seeds of this precious crop have been conserved and multiplied over the years by the caring folks at NativeSeedsSEARCH and are available for Southwest gardeners to plant.
Tia Marta here, inspiring you to try your hand at making corn tortillas with this ancient, local, and well-adapted corn! Volunteers at Tucson’s Mission Garden just harvested their monsoon crop of Tohono O’odham 60-day dried cobs, and they invited MaizTucson’s Carlos Figueroa to make masa with it and to provide tastes of tortillas made with this special heirloom corn.
He explained how he boiled the kernels until they were softening, then he added slake lime (food grade calcium hydroxide) and let it stand overnight. [There are detailed instructions online how to make nixtamal.] He ground the nixtamal in a stone mill to make the masa, adding enough of the reserved cooking liquid to have the right dough consistency.
He formed the masa into balls for placing between two sheets of wax paper in a tortilla press. No problem if you do not have a press. A rolling pin works fine with your dough sandwiched in wax paper.
After pressing, he showed how to peel one sheet of wax paper and put the dough side into his hand for easy placing onto a very hot grill. Instead of a grill, I use an ungreased iron skillet on the stovetop. Grill your round of masa until it begins to puff on top, then flip it to allow it to puff up on the other side. You may want to flip it twice before it is grilled through. The great news is that MaizTucson has ready-to-use masa from Tohono O’odham 60-day Corn available for sale at some farmers markets, so you can take the gardening-later short-cut!
Serve your tortillas hot –as with the preceding delicious recipe for tomatillo stew (scroll back to the Oct.20 post in this same blog!) You could also create a fancy appetizer by pinching masa dough into a little basin. After it is grilled, fill it with grated cheese, chopped tomatoes or salsa and melt it in a quick oven for a “Southwest pizza”.
Talk about sustainability! Think about the month of water saved by growing a short-season corn compared to normal 90-day corn varieties. All the more reason for happy tortilla-grilling and eating with this desert-adapted, highly nutritious Tohono O’odham 60-day corn masa!
Your homemade corn tortillas will go really well with Tia Marta’s heirloom bean soup mixes!
For Southwest heirloom foods and gift ideas for the holiday season check out my website www.FlordeMayoArts.com and order early. Or you can find my jojoba herbal soaps, notecard and canvas art tote creations, sacred sage bundles, white Sonora wheat berries, and colorful heirloom bean and tepary mixes at special stores–Tohono Chul Museum Shop, NativeSeedsSEARCH store, Presidio Museum in the center of Tucson, Old Town Artisans, Wiwpul Du’ag East at San Xavier Mission Plaza, Saguaro National Park West bookstore, and Caduceus Cellars in Jerome, AZ.