Saturday, March 22, 2014

WHAT I LEARNED LAST NIGHT ABOUT MEXICAN CORN

A blue and white corn tortilla
Last night I finally met the associate of a professor friend of mine from the Geography school of UNAM (National Autonomous University of Mexico). She's an agronomist who tracks the agricultural land use in the state of Michoacan and probably all of Mexico. I've been wanting to meet her because she's a maize (corn) expert. Here are some of the things I learned:



  1. She confirmed that there is no GMO corn permitted to be grown in Mexico anymore. 
  2. All the white corn for human consumption here in Michoacan is grown here. 
  3. Yellow corn for feed is mostly imported, and that may or may not be GMO, it's not regulated; and whereas it used to come from the US, a lot of that US corn is now used for ethanol, so Mexico is importing more from Argentina and China and probably other places. She's not sure, however, whether they're importing because there's not the capacity to grow enough feed corn here or because of trade agreements.
  4. The problem with white corn tortillas made commercially, she explained to me, is lack of fiber which health authorities here are linking to stomach cancer (interesting!). 
  5. Blue corn tortillas do have, according to the latest research, cancer fighting properties. It's the blue color, as in blueberries, from anthocyanin (a term that showed up on my UCSF Nutrition class quiz yesterday too -- which was on cancer). Anthocyanins are also helpful against diabetes, a growing problem here as everywhere else. Here's an article about anthocyanin from the University of Oregon Linus Paul Institute:  http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/ss01/anthocyanin.html
I've always loved corn tortillas, and they've been particularly useful since I've given up wheat. I can buy them four blocks from my house at a tortillaria where there's a squeaky machine with a conveyor belt spitting them out for cheap. But there's also a woman there making them on a comal and I buy those for slightly more. But now I'm not sure she's using a different flour, maybe it doesn't have the fiber content it should.

At the edge of the San Juan mercado, Purepecha women sell blue corn tortillas, and I'll be buying those next time! Why haven't I always bought them? Because they only sell them in huge stacks, they're more expensive, and I have to reheat them.... But I'm rethinking all that today.
A multi-tasking cook making tri-colored
tortillas at a Michocan
state-wide food competition

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