History and diversity of corn in Puebla

Puebla stands out for its great contribution to the history of corn, whose origin dates back more than 5,500 years and is located in the Tehuacán Valley.

By Cocina Cinco Fuegos

Historia y diversidad del maíz en PueblaCocina Cinco Fuegos

Reserve of the Tehuacán-Cuicatlán Biosphere

Natural protected area consisting of territories of 20 municipalities of the state of Puebla and 31 of Oaxaca, where they have the perfect weather conditions to be the launching point for agriculture in Mesoamerica.<br>

Historia y diversidad del maíz en PueblaCocina Cinco Fuegos

For that reason, in 2018, Unesco designated the “Valle de Tehuacán-Cuicatlán”, (Puebla-Oaxaca) as a World Heritage Site for being an original habitat in Mesoamerica.<br>

Corn cave

This cave located in the Pueblan municipality of Coxcatlán provided archeological evidence of the beginnings of agriculture in America. It was there that they discovered remnants of highly important crops to Mesoamerica, such as corn, pumpkin, beans and amaranth.<br>

Historia y diversidad del maíz en PueblaCocina Cinco Fuegos

Ancient corn cobs

The most ancient corn cobs (the central structure of corn) were found inside the so-called "Corn Cave" in Coxcatlán, Puebla, and are on display in the Valle de Tehuacán Museum to attest to the fact that corn and Puebla have a very special millennium-old relationship.<br>

Historia y diversidad del maíz en PueblaCocina Cinco Fuegos

Center of origin and diversification

Research carried out between 1961 and 1965, under the supervision of US archeologist Richard S. MacNeish and an interdisciplinary team, established Valle de Tehuacán as the possible center of origin and diversification of various agricultural products, especially corn. <br>

Historia y diversidad del maíz en PueblaCocina Cinco Fuegos

Of this transformation in Mexico, we conserve 59 endemic species from which multiple varieties are derived.

Evolution from teocintle to corn

The wild grass known as teocintle is the species from which corn originated, which, after a long process of adaptation and selection, began to diversify. <br>

Historia y diversidad del maíz en PueblaCocina Cinco Fuegos

Interaction with humans

Human groups started the process of domesticating corn over 9,000 years ago in Mexico.<br>

Through multiple generations of cultivation, peasant families selected and adapted corn to different geographic regions and to their food needs and interests, making it the most important food for the Mexican people<br>

Historia y diversidad del maíz en PueblaCocina Cinco Fuegos

Corn stalks

The stalks were one of the first products consumed from the corn plant, since they contained a sweet and juicy center and were esteemed as a source of energy. Their consumption is still preserved in some regions of Mexico.<br>

Historia y diversidad del maíz en PueblaCocina Cinco Fuegos

Popcorn

Well before eating tortillas, tamales or any grain-based antojito, our ancestors consumed popcorn.<br>

The kernels were popped using hot ash, and this treat has been consumed for thousands of years in Mexico as well as in other regions of North and South America.<br>

Historia y diversidad del maíz en PueblaCocina Cinco Fuegos

Grinding stones

Different types of stone have been used throughout history to grind and process food. Thanks to archaeological remains found in the Balsas River basin in Guerrero, it is known that corn was ground with stones of volcanic origin as far back as 8700 years ago.<br>

In Mesoamerica, two stone utensils were developed that are still used to this day in Mexican cooking. We're talking about the metate with its <i>metlapil, </i>and the molcajete with its tejolote for grinding.<br>

Historia y diversidad del maíz en PueblaCocina Cinco Fuegos

Early culinary techniques

Clay ovens or cooking pits gave way to one of the first culinary techniques in the world. It is estimated that in Mexico, the use of this technique dates back over 6,000 years.

To date, there are dishes such as the zacahuil, an enormous tamale that is cooked underground with the use of firewood and hot stones. The <i>pib</i> is an oven that is used in the Yucatan peninsula to cook dishes, such as the traditional cochinita pibil<br>

Historia y diversidad del maíz en PueblaCocina Cinco Fuegos

Atole 

Atole (a hot, corn-based beverage) is of a liquid consistency that has been drunk since pre-Hispanic times as a source of nutrients. There are several ways of preparing it, whether through the use of ground or cooked corn or nixtamalized masa. <br>

Any of these raw materials is diluted in water and boiled to create a thick drink. Atoles can be enhanced with the addition of fruits, cinnamon, or chocolate, among other ingredients.<br>

Historia y diversidad del maíz en PueblaCocina Cinco Fuegos

Nixtamalization

Nixtamalization is the process of cooking corn in an alkaline solution, commonly made of a lime or ash base, which makes it easier to digest, more nutritious, flexible and conserves it. This technique is one of the most important culinary contributions of Mesoamerica to the world. <br>

Ancient civilizations used wood ash instead of lime, which is why the word nixtamal comes from the Nahuatl words <i>nixtli</i>and <i>tamalli</i>, which mean ash and dough, respectively.<br>

Historia y diversidad del maíz en PueblaCocina Cinco Fuegos

Comal-tortilla

The comal or <i>comalli</i> is a flat circular cooking dish developed in Mesoamerica to prepare tortillas and foods such as memlas, tlacoyos, sopes, and quesadillas, among others. <br>

Traditionally, comales were made from clay and cooked over a fire. Reyes Metzontla is an artisan community located in Puebla, which is globally renowned for the quality of its clay comales.<br>

Historia y diversidad del maíz en PueblaCocina Cinco Fuegos

Corn diversity in Puebla

Puebla is a corn-rich state. It can be found in different shapes, colors and textures. Some of the most notable strains are arrocillo, bolita, cónico, chalqueño, elotes cónicos, cacahuacintle and tuxpeño.<br>

Corn is the most important crop in Puebla and is present in the 217 municipalities that form part of it. The presence of nine native species with hundreds of local varieties has been documented.<br>

Historia y diversidad del maíz en PueblaCocina Cinco Fuegos

Shapes and textures

The diversity of corn is expressed through multiple shapes and textures. In the case of poblanos, we can find corns with a hard consistency and a crystalline appearance, or soft corns with a floury consistency.

There are also colored corn, such as red, pink, blue, black, white, yellow and orange. All are part of the biological and culinary heritage of Puebla.

Historia y diversidad del maíz en PueblaCocina Cinco Fuegos

Conical corn - conical corn

These races commonly grow in Puebla and are corns that, as their name indicates, have a conical or pyramidal shape. They are appreciated for their sweet and soft corn, and for making tortillas, pinoles and atoles.

Historia y diversidad del maíz en PueblaCocina Cinco Fuegos

Cacahuacintle corn

Cacahuacintle is one of the most highly valued criollo corns in Mexico. Its large, floury kernels are ideal for preparing pozole or for eating off the cob. They are also used to make tamales and gorditas.<br>

Historia y diversidad del maíz en PueblaCocina Cinco Fuegos

Tunicate corn

This is one of the oldest and most peculiar corns. Each kernel is covered with an individual husk (totomoxtle), which makes it look like a garlic bulb. For that reason, it is popularly known as garlic corn.<br>

It has fallen into disuse for gastronomic purposes, however, its planting is preserved for artisanal purposes and due to the richness of its genetic information.

Credits: Story

<b>Curators:</b> Fundación Tortilla<br>Rafael Mier<br>Wendy Pérez <br><b>Photographer/Creator:</b> Vicente Uicab: 11.<br>Gustavo Macuitl: 15.<br><b>Archives:</b> Fundación Tortilla: 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20.<br>Museum of Archeology, Philips Robert S. Peabody Academy: 2.<br>Wikimedia Commons: 9.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Google apps