Exploring a Farmers’ Market

A farmers’ market is an epitome of a neighborhood grocery store, with vendors selling fruit, vegetables, meats, cheeses and baked goods. The vibrant colors and aromas that linger through a farmers’ market are indicators of what you might encounter. Not only are there fresh produce and goodies, but one can easily spot a major difference: the PRICE. Yes, items that you would typically buy at a conventional store are often more expensive, if you buy them at a farmers’ market. This shouldn’t stop you from exploring a market though! Local vendors are proud of their produce, as it takes time and hard work to grow.

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Downtown Growers’ Market, Albuquerque. Image credit: Downtown Growers’ Market

Though you might be initially discouraged by the prices, there are always options to support farmers and vendors and stay within a comfortable price range. Focusing on seasonal items and creating a budget can help prioritize your spending. Supporting local farmers doesn’t mean you have to spend more than you originally planned; it is about prioritizing essential needs for that grocery item, dinner recipe, or experience in which you feel proud buying.

Creating a list is a great way of knowing what you need. If you have a budget, I highly advise you pick out a few items you think are worth buying locally. For example, I find myself buying tomatoes, onions and mushrooms, weekly food items that I consistently use. A farmers’ market is not your conventional grocery store like Wal-Mart where there are “Always Low Prices.” It can be overwhelming especially when buying your produce at a farmers’ market, because prices can fluctuate seasonally. Those tomatoes at a little over a $1.00 per pound at a conventional grocery will make you think twice when they’re in the $2.00 to $3.00-dollar range at the farmers’ market. Yeah, you could have had double the tomatoes!

We have fixated on everything needing to be as cheap as possible, but the different practices and methods that conventional and organic growers use in part cause the prices to differ. The cost of conventional food doesn’t reflect certain externalities, like the cost to the environment. Also consider the time and education requirements it takes: organic growers spend more time cultivating soil health and manually tending to their crops than do conventional growers. Local producers may also offer heritage or traditional varieties of produce that are not available in grocery stores. Although not all local producers grow organically, most small and mid-scale farmers tend to sell their produce at “organic prices” at a farmers’ market.

The table below shows the most popular vegetables that people buy, ranked from highest consumption to lowest. It shows prices and the difference between conventional and organic cost. It also indicates the season in which you would find the vegetable in a farmers’ market in northern and central New Mexico.

Rank Vegetable Season in Northern NM Unit Organic (Average Cost) ($) Conven- tional (Average Cost) ($) Cost Difference
($)
1 Potatoes (Russet) Jan-Mar & Oct-Dec 3 lb bag 2.51 1.00 1.51
2 Tomatoes Jul-Oct per pound 2.47 1.29 1.18
3 Onions Year Round per pound 1.26 0.84 0.42
4 Carrots Jan-Feb & July-Dec 1 lb. bag 1.26 0.78 0.48
5 Lettuce Year Round each 1.70 1.21 0.49
6 Broccoli Jun & Sept -Nov per bunch 2.47 2.38 0.09
7 Salad Mix Year Round 1 lb. bag 4.84 1.46 3.38
8 Bell Peppers Jul-Oct each 1.36 0.75 0.61
9 Celery Mar-Sept each 1.80 1.17 0.63
10 Cucumbers Jul-Oct each 1.36 0.67 0.69
11 Corn Jul-Oct each ND 0.69 NA
12 Garlic Jan-Mar & July-Dec each 1.02 0.28 0.74
13 Mushrooms (White) Year Round 8 oz. package 2.60 1.79 0.81
14 Sweet Potatoes Oct-Jan per pound 1.54 0.96 0.58
15 Spinach (flat, baby type) Year Round 1 lb. package 5.00 3.29 1.71
16 Cabbage June-Dec per pound 0.87 0.51 0.36
17 Green Beans Feb-Oct per pound 2.67 1.62 1.05
18 Cauliflower Sept-Oct each 2.68 2.59 0.09
19 Green Onions Year Round per bunch 0.88 0.93 -0.05
20 Asparagus May-June per pound 3.63 2.35 1.28

Now that you have a general understanding of the price comparison, creating a list becomes essential when prioritizing items for which there are high demand in your household. Knowing your budget makes it easier to buy what you need. Not only knowing what produce you consume the most is helpful but also what recipes you’ll be making that week is also helpful. Meal planning allows you to identify items that you’ll need in advance, making it easier to prioritize where you’ll purchase food items. For example, if I want to make Smothered Burritos one day and Green Chile Cheese Burgers another, I know that I need lettuce, tomatoes and green chile – all of which can be bought at a farmers’ market. Prepping in advance gives you the opportunity to make some purchases at a farmers’ market weekly. Knowing what you need in advance will allow you stick to a budget and support local producers at your farmers’ market.

No matter if you have a budget or not, you will be exploring! Often times farmers’ markets have regular vendors, but sometimes the layout varies. A great opportunity, which you can’t do at a conventional grocery store, is to TALK to the grower. You are face to face with the person that grew or made the item you’re buying, so ask questions, get to know their story, methods and philosophy, and why they charge what they charge! And hopefully you will be drawn in to supporting vendors at your local farmers’ market – with or without a budget.

-Alma

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Two Simple Steps to Move Towards a Plant-based Diet

When someone thinks about sustainability, the first things that come to mind may be buying local, switching to CFL or LED light bulbs, recycling, and the list goes on. But not a lot of people think about what they’re eating. One of the most effective ways to become more sustainable is to become plant-based. It’s more effective than any other kind of vegetarian diet, and is much less carbon intensive than a completely “local” omnivorous diet. According to National Geographic,  “One of the easiest ways to slim your water footprint is to eat less meat and dairy.” I know that “going vegan” can sound intimidating, because having a plant-based diet means avoiding all animals products, like dairy, meat, fish, gelatin, honey, and others. But it isn’t as hard as it seems. Here are two easy steps to get you closer to a vegan diet.

Step one is to start eating whole foods and to familiarize yourself with ingredients in processed foods. Focus on learning new recipes and reading the ingredient lists on foods you usually buy. Start cooking at home as much as you can. There are vegan healthy recipes you can follow, or enjoy some more comfort food recipes (my personal favorite). Feeling more comfortable with making your own food will help you avoid animal products that can be hidden in processed foods. Do not worry about cutting out all animal products now; just start just making your own food as best you can. Buying processed foods is also okay: just read the labels and avoid certain ingredients if you want to ensure that you’re buying plant-based foods. And don’t worry, you don’t need to be perfect right away! Step one can take some time getting used to, and you don’t need to go cold turkey (pun intended)!

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Some delicious vegan comfort food recipes from Serious Eats.

If you feel like you might not have time to prepare your own food every day, try food prepping. Make all of your food for the week on one day in about two or three hours. Make large batches and store them in the fridge or freezer. This simple practice makes eating at home a lot more efficient. If you have restrictions on what kinds of food you can access (you live in a dorm room, have limited access to grocery stores, etc.), do the best you can to select a wide variety of whole, plant-based foods. Cost may also seem to be an issue, but many substitutes for meat (beans, tofu, quinoa, etc.) are cheaper and a lot more sustainable. Change takes time.

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Here are a few more vegan recipes compiled by a magazine based in Philly.

For the second step, focus on switching some animal products to vegan substitutes. The easiest switch is probably from cow’s milk to a plant milk. Coconut milk is the most sustainable because it uses the least pesticides, least water, and produces the smallest amount of greenhouse gases out of a variety of other milks. There are also now vegan cheese, ice cream, and yogurt from a variety of companies that can be found in most large grocery stores. There are lot of different kinds of vegan “meats” and other “dairy” products like butter and cream cheese. All of these substitutes have smaller footprints than their counterparts because animal products take a lot more resources (energy, water, land) to produce.

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Going vegan can be a lot more efficient and use a lot less resources compared to an omnivorous diet. Image credit: greenerideal.com

A recent study shows that people are more motivated to change their diets to plant-based if it means that they will be helping, instead of hurting, people and the earth around them. Going plant-based, or even vegetarian or pescatarian, all help in terms of sustainability for the future. A plant-based diet cuts your carbon footprint in half. It also slows deforestation and overfishing. A vegan uses one tenth of the water in their diet than an omnivore does, mainly because all of the grains that are used to feed animals go straight to people. Going plant-based has so many benefits and is now easier than ever to do. There are so many substitutes and resources available, more than there ever were before. Going vegan is one of the most sustainable things someone can accomplish, so why not give it a shot?

-Natasha

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Sustainable Food for UNM Students

Eating on campus can be a sustainable adventure that educates and creates healthy habits that last a lifetime. Colleges all over the US are working towards connecting students to their local foodshed and to fresh food, by buying locally and lowering their waste.

At first glance, it may not look like UNM as an institution is thinking a lot about sustainable food – but that is not the case. There is a long way to go to reach a visibly and wholly sustainable experience on campus but creating that will start with an acknowledgement of our current accomplishments.

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Sustainability written in metal above the plate receptacle in La Posada. Photo by author.

Chartwells, the parent company to UNM Food, has numerous sustainability initiatives . These initiatives include “providing fair trade options” and “encouraging local spending.” Head Chef Hassan Abassary and Director of Operations Karen Lombardi are both devoted to sustainability and work toward Chartwells’ stated objectives.

In a presentation to my sustainability class, Chef Hassan proudly listed – off the top of his head – some of the of current successes in the La Posada dining hall:

  • Pinto beans served often at the “Red or Green?” station are grown in the Four Corners region and sourced through La Montanita Co-Op Distribution Center;
  • Tamales, enchiladas, tortillas, and sopapillas are purchased locally from Bueno Foods;
  • The pork served is hormone free and bought from Kyzer farm, a New Mexican family farm;
  • Meat is not the focal point of each meal station;
  • La Posada makes deals with local farmers to buy as much of their lowest cost misshapen produce as possible to avoid waste in the fields;
  • La Posada composts kitchen scraps and food waste through Soilutions.

Head Chef Hassan clearly loves to cook. At a UNM Food student associate reception he personally cooked each person’s dinner, smiling and describing the diverse ways to combine the available ingredients. With such a personality in the kitchen, it is no wonder that Chartwells does a good job of serving a range of vegetables in new and fun ways in the dining hall. I am surprised by big, juicy Portobello mushrooms, a lime and feta lentil dish, and the variety of  kale-based dishes that are not only healthy, but delicious. These dishes make sustainable diet choices easy by putting local and fresh food front and center in delicious plant-based meal options.

Other initiatives at La Posada are advertised on the walls in large framed pictures captioned “cage-free eggs” and “rBGH free dairy.” As these practices become the norm for food service providers, UNM Food can make a bigger difference if it pursues other methods of increasing sustainability.

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Signage for sustainable commitments, a step in the right direction. Photo by author.

Some failures in perception come mainly from a lack of upkeeping the advertising and more signage near food. And although “sustainability” is in big metal letters above the dishwashing station, the wall with statistics about accomplishments has not been updated since August 2017. Being sustainable is one thing, but letting people know, and making people think more critically about it, is an even better option.

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Things are looking promising for the sustainability of eating on campus for UNM students. Karen praises Chef Hassan for his dedication to taking measurements of all the diverted food waste through donations, composting, and suggested portion sizes. She believes that with some recent staff additions, it is now likely that the statistics on the wall will be updated and Hassan will have more time to develop new sustainable solutions in the dining hall.

While the management staff of La Posada feel that more edible plants in and around La Posada would be great; indoor plants also offer a passive way to regulate temperature and clean the air. The columns in La Posada provide a good space to grow vine plants. There is also talk of an herb garden inside.

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Colorado State University features a “plant column” in their LEED Platinum pavilion. Photo by author.

Local fruit and nut trees could be planted around the outside of La Posada, including some of the plants found here.

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A dining hall that feeds thousands presents an opportunity to affect thousands. By shifting our current setup, we can further connect people to their food and invite them to think about the possibilities of how we can affect our communities through our everyday choices – starting with what we eat.

-Coleen

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Vermicomposting in New Mexico

What is vermicomposting? It is composting using worms, Specifically with Eisenia fetida, the most common type of red worm. These worms are favored because they are sturdy and tend to stay near the surface, helping to quickly process food waste. When worms eat your waste, they produce casts (poop) mixed with other decayed organic matter. This compost contains eight times the microorganisms than the food consumed, five times more nitrogen, seven times more phosphorus, and eleven times more potassium than typical soil. It’s also rich in humic acid, which balances pH in the soil.

Why vermicompost? It can be done indoor or outdoor, large scale or small scale, and the compost is very nutrient rich. Most people prefer to vermicompost because it can be done with a small bin indoors used to get rid of kitchen scraps. The vermicompost process is also much quicker than traditional methods. If the bin is kept properly, there will be no odor. Plus, composting is good for the environment. Instead of throwing away food scraps you can turn them into valuable fertilizer for plants and gardens.

How to get started. Mary Appelhof, author of Worms Eat my Garbage, recommends to calculate how much food waste your family produces in a week and then “plan on one square foot of surface for each pound of food waste per week.” You can buy a plastic bin or a stacked configuration to use for the worms, or more preferably build a wooden one.

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Get started. Photo by author.

The bin will need holes for ventilation or one big hole covered with mesh.

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A mesh screen insert. Photo by author.

For substrate it is recommended to use some sort of natural material like mushroom compost. You can get as simple as using wet shredded newspaper or even leaves. I would not recommend leaves because of all the bugs that can be introduced to your bin from them, but if the bin is outside it might not matter. Also add a bit of grit, such as a handful of sand.

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Prepare the bedding. Photo by author.

You will need about 1,000 worms, which is about a pound. If that’s not enough for the bin size that is fine, they will quickly populate to fill the space.

Lastly, add your scraps preferably in small pieces, as worms will consume smaller bits faster.

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Add your food waste. Photo by author.

What can I feed my worms? They can be fed any organic material except the following:

  • Spicy food
  • Acidic/citrus foods
  • Oily food/Oil
  • Potato peels
  • Animal products: Meat, Milk, eggs (rinsed egg shells are okay)
  • No animal feces

Pros and Cons on Vermicompost

Pros

  • Easy to manage
  • Can be done indoors
  • Creates great highly nutrient rich compost quickly

Cons

  • Limited on how much you can compost
  • Limited on what you can compost
  • Can smell if done indoors (shouldn’t happen)
  • May attract bugs

How to maintain your bin: Every six weeks you will need to sort the worms from the dirt and add new bedding. You can sort them by shining a bright light over the bin and gradually skimming the top layers of dirt away. The worms will keep migrating to the bottom until you remove most of the finished compost.

How to use your compost: Use to fertilize plants. There is no way to use too much compost and it won’t harm the plants.

How to use compost to improve desert soil: According to the Sandoval County Master Gardeners, adding compost to desert soil will “allow for aggregation and water retention in sandy soil.” Adding compost reduces the alkalinity of the soil to a more neutral pH, but not permanently. Make holes in your soil with garden tools and then add the compost [and worms, if desired]. Then water and add mulch to your space all year around which will keep your soil moist. You can also add a cover crop for additional nutrients and to break up compacted ground.

-Tifani

 

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Futuristic Farming

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Population Clock. Image: US Census

The Earth is home to more and more people every day, and as more people are born more resources are used. Currently the population of the world is roughly 7.5 billion people, growing at such a rate that alternative and futuristic advances in farming may be necessary. New Mexico’s population growth may be stagnant, but our state’s water use is growing. About 80% of New Mexico’s water goes to agriculture, and with the incorporation of a few new and different farming methods, people and ecosystems in the state could greatly benefit. 

The first advancement in farming technology that could be expanded in New Mexico — particularly, in Albuquerque — is indoor growing. Indoor growing systems could be modeled after Irving Fain’s Bowery company, an indoor vertical farm. The other method is greenhouse production, modeled after Matthew Stong’s Preferred Produce operation, which utilizes a hydroponic system to reduce overall water use.

An arid city such as Albuquerque could benefit greatly from a large-scale indoor growing operation. The Bowery company has an indoor space with vertical growing stacks going five levels high. The plants are protected indoors, allowing for 4-season growing and are grown using LED light fixtures. The veggies, herbs and greens such as arugula or basil are watered by an adaptive hydroponic system. Albuquerque could adopt a similar system that would best fit and benefit our community. With grant money or funding from the state it would be possible to build a technical facility similar to Bowery and their system to produce greens and veggies for the city. Local farmers or specialists can operate and manage such a facility to help reduce water use.

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Five-level vertical growing stack at Bowery. Image: Fortune.com

According to Bowery, they are able to save 95% of the normal water used for the plants. This will not reduce the overall agricultural use of water by 95% but will hopefully spark an agricultural practice that can flourish into the future. According to Irving Fain, the CEO of Bowery, the measurement system that tracks plant water use, growth, and other indicators is the most advantageous part of indoor growing. The wattage requirement in Bowery is 32 watts per square foot and varies depending on the stage of growth the plants are in. Another advantage Albuquerque has is the use of the sun and solar power to cut cost of energy and overall to help reduce our footprint. Because of their efficient practices, Bowery is able to keep cost of products — such as 5-ounce container of greens — at a reasonable price of $3.99, helping the community eat at an affordable and sustainable price for years to come.

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A few of Bowery’s products. Image: boweryfarming.com

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Matthew Stong working in his greenhouse. Image: Deming Headlight

Another important method to implement into New Mexico is a greenhouse hydroponic system. Matthew Stong has a PhD in agriculture and bio-systems engineering, and is the owner of Preferred Produce in Deming, New Mexico. His company has developed a business model that produces a livable wage and addresses water availability issues in New Mexico. By creating this new type of 4-season farming operation, former field hands are now able to work in the greenhouse growing high value crops for a livable wage. The culture and system of agriculture that is created here needs to be replicated and adopted by more farmers, as it could add to the general economy by having better wages and more jobs for a better future. Additionally, the hydroponic system cycles water three times — allowing for a significantly less water used in growing food. Some of food grown by Preferred Produce includes romaine and other greens, tomatoes, and various small veggies and fruits.

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Fresh greens from Preferred Produce. Image: Albuquerque Journal

Both of these methods practiced by Bowery and Preferred Produce could greatly benefit New Mexico and help reduce the amount of water that is currently used in agriculture. Another great aspect of these methods is that they can bring a new and young generation to farming to keep the culture and life alive.

-Reed

 

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Nurturing Sprouts: Insight into Albuquerque Public Schools’ Food Education for Primary Students

Personal Insights

My insight into food has always been rooted in what I was taught in school. Public education in the U.S. taught me to balance what I ate in terms of the food pyramid. It stated that I consume large portions of grains and just a small amount of sugar and fats.

I shifted this perspective when I moved to Kuwait in 2006. While there I attended a private school that required health as a core subject. Within the class we were taught to balance our diet and have insight on what we eat. Cultural perspective and scientific reasoning were heavily relayed to us. Thus, food became more than fuel we ingest to keep ourselves on the move. I jumped to eating foods without any corn-based additives and all foods that were non-GMO. Years later, I would become vegan and try to source my food locally. I have since switched back to an omnivorous diet, but my roots remain. I treat food as a cultural item and understand how it intersects with a healthy life.

Cultural Perspective

Culture is fostered at an early age. In society today, kids spend most of their time at school. This environment fosters a communal culture, one aspect of which is food. Food culture deeply affects how students react to food and develops their thoughts on healthy diets. Understanding how food culture is promoted in schools will help us to identify emerging health and diet trends. This blog entry provides some insight into how Albuquerque Public Schools (APS) interpret and create their culture of food.

USDA Guidelines

Albuquerque Public Schools have long used nutritional guidelines provided by the federal government. Nutritional initiatives fall under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and these nutritional guidelines are often shared with the public in the form of an infographic. The infographic has undergone various iterations over the past century, from pie charts to the more recent food pyramid. The differences between the 1992 food pyramid and the MyPlate model illustrate how the guidelines have evolved. In the MyPlate model, fats, sugars, and oils have been eliminated and what used to be termed meats has been replaced by protein. In addition, serving sizes and the pyramid shape have changed into recognizable sizes on a dinner plate. The federal guidelines fundamentally change how students talk about food. With meats shifted more broadly to protein, other foods such as nuts, seeds, and beans are seen as valuable assets to a plate. This cultural shift makes dietary preferences such as vegetarian an understandable option.

FoodCorps

Numerous program have been set up to support health and nutrition in low income communities. One of these federal initiatives is FoodCorps, which provides service members to public schools and community organizations in high-need states. Service members implement a three-part initiative to promote hands-on learning, a balanced diet, and general health education. FoodCorps services seventeen states and the District of Columbia, including New Mexico.

In New Mexico, FoodCorps supports seven service sites. Three of these sites are in the Albuquerque metropolitan area, and include La Plazita Institute, the Southwest Organizing Project and the Albuquerque Public School Gardens. Mallory Garcia holds the position as APS School Gardens coordinator. In an interview, she stated that her main role facilitates interactions between individual schools and local companies. She believes that student gardens engender a form of ownership among students that tend them. With the earned knowledge and dedication, they are more likely to know and care about the food they eat. However, many student gardens face issues of long-term leadership and access to funding. These issues are mitigated by community inclusion and the support of facilitators like Garcia.

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Farm to Table, a sponsor of APS Gardens, facilitates a public tour of the Kirtland Elementary school garden. Image from: Farm to Table

DOT Gardens

Garcia has connected multiple partners together to provide resources to individual schools. Albuquerque Academy is one of those resources. This private school maintains the Desert Oasis Teaching (DOT) Gardens. Its original focus was centered on xeriscaping and understanding local desert flora. Tiana Baca is the garden manager for the DOT gardens. When interviewed, Baca expressed that the DOT gardens provide multiple functions to both the school and the wider public. They grow seedlings in a greenhouse on campus, and provide them to other schools in the area, including Lavaland Elementary School. Baca noted that many students, especially in elementary, have trouble growing plants from seeds. “Giving students sprouts builds their confidence because they can see it,” Baca stated. The DOT Garden also offers biweekly on-campus volunteer opportunities where volunteers learn a variety of gardening methods. These lessons include management of raised beds, soil health, and compost. WaterSmart gardening workshops, supported by the local Water Utility Authority, are also offered free to the public. These workshops and volunteer opportunities help foster community engagement and provide an exciting hands-on learning experience.

Conclusion

Albuquerque is a mixing pot of many unique cultures. Food culture is fostered in many ways, from those supported by the USDA to community initiatives such as the DOT Gardens. How we craft the culture of food is vital to the health of future generations and their communities.

-Edwin

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Chicos

Corn, also known as maize, has been a foundational part of Native American, Aztec, Maya, and other cultures across the world. These cultures each believe in corn deities — many of which are associated with fertility — and have created stories of planting, growing, and harvesting corn. Mayans created their calendar on the planting season of corn and believe that they were fashioned from corn. Native Americans have dances that are specifically for the health of the corn. Corn is not only worshiped, but is also a staple food that gives us nutrients we need.

Corn is a traditional food of New Mexico — one of the foundational three sister foods, along with beans and squash. Chicos are fire-cooked corn that are dried and preserved for use in stew and other dishes. Chicos are a part of both the Hispanic and Native American cultures in the Southwest region, where food is symbolic of togetherness. Smoking and drying corn is an important ancestral food preservation tradition. Lois Ellen Frank, a Santa Fe based chef and native food historian, provides a brief history of chicos.

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Chicos. Image from Pinterest.

As a member of Sandia Pueblo, I have grown up around agriculture and have been a part of making chicos many times — each time with different harvests and conditions. This process has been a joyous occasion that can be either a family or community gathering. Everyone can walk away with a piece of life from the garden. Making chicos requires hard work, and it starts from the seed. Weeding, watering, and time spent in your garden all gets rewarded with a value-added product like chicos.  The tradition and culture of chicos has given me a sense of what our ancestors did to preserve food. The taste of chicos is like no other way of cooking corn: the earth and fire give it a certain smoky earthy taste that you can’t get anywhere else. My favorite part of making chicos is picking the corn with family and trying not to get lost in the paradise.

To make chicos you will need corn, corn stalks, a shovel, big rocks, rebar, tin sheets, water, and dirt. First: dig a pit of any length that is at least 3 feet deep. Start a fire in the pit, and allow it to burn for 5 hours. Once coals have formed, you’ll have ample heat for cooking. While the coals are forming, put the ears of corn in buckets to be soaked in water. Next, cover the coals with corn stalks so the corn won’t burn. Once the stalks are down, cover the pit with tin sheets, leaving an doorway opening through which to put the corn and water.

Steam will rise out as soon as water is put in to the pit, so the key to the process is to quickly cover the corn once water is added. Another trick is not to put too much dirt on top of the tin sheets because uncovering them will be arduous and you may get dirt in corn. The hardest part of this process is putting the corn in the pit quickly so as not to lose any steam. This process is an all-day event or could be done overnight. Below is a video of the setup preparation on how to make chicos.

 

The success of the cooking phase all depends on the steam and pressure; if it is high, the ground and tin will rumble, this is an excellent sign. Once the corn has been cooked for four hours, the next step is to uncover the pit by taking the dirt off the tin sheets, so dirt does not fall into final product. We would drive a flatbed as close as we could to the pit to put the corn on and wipe away any dirt that got on them. After collecting all the corn, we do one of four things; give it away to the community, hang it to be dried, eat it straight off cob, or prepare a meal with it. The way I prepare chicos is by cutting the corn off the cob and mixing it with squash in a pan. I cook it until soft and serve it with beans and tortillas. Michele Ostrove’s article in New Mexico magazine offers a variety of recipes for adding chicos to your cuisine.

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Stew with chicos. Image from: foodgps.com

-Paul

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