Indigenous Biotechnology/Corn Nixtamalization

Date and Time: 
Friday, 12 May, 2017 - 08:30
, Thomas - Institute of American Indian Arts

Nixtamalization is the traditional practice of preparing soaked corn with wood ash. Tribes of North America prefer to use nixtamalized maize for many traditional and staple dishes (such as hominy, posole, tortillas, tamales, and Piki bread, a type of Hopi tortilla). Science courses at Institute of American Indian Arts honor the centuries-old practice (indigenous knowledge systems) of how Native Americans make corn more digestible and nutritious, and then provide the scientific understanding of how this process works. Using pH meters we demonstrate how color changes are affected by the addition of sodium carbonate (ash) prepared from burned Four-wing saltbush (Atriplex canescens) or Juniper (Juniperus monosperma).  This process releases the vital nutrient niacin (Vit.B3) making it available for absorption into the body. It also significantly reduces (by 90-94 %) mycotoxins produced by Fusarium verticillioides and F. proliferatum, molds that commonly infect maize and are recognized carcinogens.