Growing Native: Corn Chicos, an ancestral food

Growing Native: Corn Chicos, an ancestral food

Lois Ellen Frank is a Growing Native advisory committee member & the owner of Red Mesa Cuisine

Date Posted: 
2012-09-28 00:00

Blog Series:

The corn is almost ready to harvest now and Northern New Mexican families are busy making the corn into chicos. Chicos are a traditional dried corn. They are made from field corn that is harvested, tied into ristras (strings), and hung to dry. Some Native American and Hispano families (that settled in this region hundreds of years ago) make chicos by roasting the corn in the horno adobe (earthen) oven overnight and then hang them to air-dry. After the corn is dried, the kernels are rubbed off by hand and then stored to be used throughout the winter. The horno roasted corn has a slightly darker color when dried but both are equally delicious. Either way, this ancestral traditional process of drying corn kernels is an important ancestral staple food to this region.

I use chicos in many winter stews but one of my favorite ways to cook them is simply with beans. Using a process that combines roasting with drying, the end product is a dreid, wrinkled corn that stores well. Chicos, when they are cooked, swell up to an almost fresh corn consistency and taste like freshly smoked corn. They are an important food to the Southwest region and a traditional food that is a great example of growing native.

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