Blue corn (also known as Hopi maize) is a variety of flint maize grown in Mexico and the Southwestern United States, particularly in the states of Arizona and New Mexico. It is one of the main types of corn used for the traditional Southern and Central Mexican food known as tlacoyo.
It was originally developed by the Hopi, and remains an essential part of Hopi dishes like piki bread. Blue corn meal is a corn meal that is ground from whole blue corn and has a sweet flavor. It is also a staple of New Mexican cuisine.
In addition to its sharply different color, blue corn has several nutritional advantages over standard yellow or white corn varieties. It contains 20 percent more protein and has a lower glycemic index than white corn. When used to make tortillas, blue corn produces a sweeter, nuttier taste than yellow or white corn, and is a more complete protein source. A certain technique is used to grind the blue maize to make it release niacin.
Different varieties of blue corn range in color from powdery gray to nearly black. There are three varieties of the blue corn: "standard" blue (sakwaqa'ö), hard blue (huruskwapu), and gray-blue (maasiqa'ö). Because of its hard kernels, huruskwapu is most resistant to storage pests and traditionally was the preferred variety for storing. When the grinding was all done by hand, women preferred using maasiqa'ö because it is soft and easier to grind but the color was not as vibrant as that of the sakwaqa'ö or huruskwapu.
Besides being the backbone of their diet, blue corn represents an essential part of the Hopi culture. The Hopi associate the ears of six colors of corn with the solstitial directions, plus the above and the below. Blue corn is associated with the direction of winter solstice sunset (approximately in the southwest and called Te’vūña in Hopi). The Hopi also use blue corn in the naming ceremonies of infants, who might not receive their name for six to eight months. They believe that blue corn represents a long life; Hopi men ate blue corn before undertaking long journeys because they believe it gives them great strength. To this day, the Hopi believe in the power of blue corn, as demonstrated by their story of creation.
Aside from its use in traditional Southwestern dishes, Hopi maize is used commercially in products such as blue corn chips and blue corn pancake mix.
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