My Last Few Classes Have Been a Bit Corny
Corn is one of late summer and early Fall's iconic foods. And did you know that corn has been around for about 10,000 years! What's interesting about corn is that it doesn't grow in the wild; the corn plant has to be planted and cultivated by humans!
We can thank the folks living in Mexico for bringing this tasty plant to the world. And the corn plant became a staple food for the native peoples of North and South America!
Do You Know the 3 Sisters?
There's a lot we can learn about the history of these indigenous foods. Corn, beans and squash are staple foods in native cultures of the Americas and these crops were traditionally planted together because they benefitted from each other.
The corn plants provide a tall structure for the beans to climb up (so poles weren't needed), and the beans provide nitrogen to the soil that helps other plants. The squash seeds spread across the ground and blocked the sunlight when they grew which helps prevent weeds from taking root. The leaves of the squash plant also helped keep the moisture in the soil and acted like mulch. And so, the crops were named the "3 sisters!"
Pupusas, Tacos, Tamales, Oh My!
So I mentioned that my classes have been corny...well, my classes don't always feature corn, but there are plenty of corny jokes and shenanigans (on my part!). The kids never tire of my pretending to receive a phone call on one of the vegetables we are using that day! Ok, corny jokes aside...
For the last 3 weeks, corn has been a major player in our recipes. I like to base my curriculum on whatever produce is in season, and in the Fall, that means corn is in!
The recipe that started off the Fall semester for us was pupusas from El Salvador. One of my favorite people in the world is from El Salvador (my Aunt D) and my cuz has a long-standing love for pupusas. Who can blame her? They are in essence little grilled cheeses made from corn flour! (Except they're fried....swoooooon). They are accompanied by a slightly tart cabbage salad called curtido and the combination of the warm, cheesey breads and the cool salad is perfect.
Something to Taco About!
By some good fortune, we happened to make tacos during the week of the National Taco Day, October 4th! These tacos were a big hit with the kids (and parents) and there were only plant-based foods in it!! Big win! We made "3 sisters" tacos and I plan on making these babies for Thanksgiving as an appetizer!! Recipe here!
During our celebration of indigenous foods on Columbus Day, we made tamales with black beans, kale and Monterey Jack cheese! Triple swoon!!! The amazing thing about tamales is that you wrap the dough and the filling of your choice in a dried (and soaked) corn husk and then close it up with a thinly ribbon of corn husk (or twine) and then steam them.
We used our Instant Pot, which steams the tamales in 25 minutes, as opposed to the traditional way of steaming in a large deep pot for 1 1/2 hours! Then, you open them up like the little package of deliciousness that they are!! Get this! Tamales are gluten-free, too! The dough is made out of corn flour (brand-name Maseca), which is naturally gluten-free. So good.
Fun Corn Facts
If I haven't managed to fully convey the awesomeness of corn, I'll leave you with these 5 fun facts about corn:
1) Corn cobs always have an even number of rows of kernels. That number is usually about 16 rows, which have about 800 kernels!
2) Corn that is picked early is eaten as a vegetable, and corn that is picked when it's full-grown is used as a grain.
3) Baby corn is harvested really early and is picked from the plant before the stalks are fully grown.
4) Corn flakes cereal is made from kernels of corn that are toasted!
5) Corn is one of the ingredients used to make chewing gum!
That's all for this week! Catch up with you soon! Go get corny, my friends!!