Foods Native to the Americas

The rich and colorful harvest of foods that we enjoy in this country reflects on the tremendous creativity of the native cultures of the Americas. Many staple foods that we take for granted are indigenous to this continent.

You may know that Maize (corn) and most familiar varieties of beans are among these native foods. What you might not know about these two, is that together, they provide a complete protein. Also at Sundance we offer both organic yellow corn meal & organic pinto beans at the super low prices of our Sundance Staples Program.

Corn (Maize): derived from a wild Central American grass called teosinte, maize has been cultivated for more than 7000 years. Blue corn contains a more complete protein and more manganese than does yellow corn. Pueblo Indians grow different colored corn for each of the sacred directions for ceremonial uses. White corn is for the east and every morning a pinch of white cornmeal is offered to the Sun Father. Blue corn is for the north. Red is for the south. Yellow is for the west, and black corn for the sky.

Peppers: Columbus, in search of Indian black pepper, named this New World food after his goal. Peppers originated 9000 years ago in Central America.

Tomatoes: a South American Native, true vine-ripened tomatoes are rare, as ripe tomatoes are almost impossible to transport. Expect local vine ripened tomatoes about two or at most three months out of the year.

Sunflower: This relative of the daisy originated in North America. Its seeds were an important food for native tribes. Sunflower seeds contain more protein than beef, and only 20 percent fat, mostly unsaturated. Most sunflowers are grown in Minnesota, North Dakota, and California.

Pumpkin Seeds: not from a pumpkin at all, these are the seeds of a South/Central American squash called the pepito. Crunchy, green, and with a nutty flavor, they are high in protein (29%).

Jerusalem Artichoke (Sunchoke): not from Jerusalem, and not related to artichokes, this North American sunflower grows a tuber with white flesh and a mild, sweet taste. It was a popular staple among numerous native north American tribes. Crisp and tasty, it makes a great addition to salads and soups.

Cool Summer Menu Using Native Foods

Preheat oven to 400°. Sift together 1 1/2 cups cornmeal, 1/2 cup whole-wheat pastry flour, 2 1/2 tsp. baking powder, 1/2 tsp. salt. In a bowl, beat 1 egg (or substitute 2 tsp. tapioca flour dissolved in a little water for the egg), add 1/4 cup vegetable oil, 1/8 to 1/4 cup honey or maple syrup and 1 cup milk (or substitute soymilk or tomato juice).
Stir in the dry ingredients and any additions (1 cup minced, briefly sautéed vegetables, about 1/4 cup fresh herbs, up to 1 cup fresh berries or 1/2 cup cooked and drained beans) and mix briefly. Pour into a greased standard loaf pan or muffin tin and bake for about 30 minutes or 20 minutes for muffins.
adapted from Cooking from the Garden by Rosalind Creasy

Rub a large bowl with 1 cut garlic clove. Peel 3lbs. tomatoes, remove seeds and chop into small pieces. Be sure not to lose any of their juice; put the tomatoes along with juice into garlic rubbed bowl. Chop 2 medium sized cucumbers. Combine with 1 green pepper and 2 minced green onions. Add to chopped tomatoes. Next add the tomato juice. Combine 1/3 cup olive oil,3 tbs. natural cider vinegar, dash of salt and 2 tsp. paprika. Season to taste. Chill thoroughly before serving.
adapted from Dr. Jensen's Real Soup & Salad Book by Dr. Bernard Jensen

Pinto Bean Salad w/Corn & Red Pepper
Rinse 1 cup dried pinto beans. Place them in a medium saucepan with 1 quart water, 1 bay leaf and 1 garlic clove. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and cook for 1 hour or until the beans are tender. Drain, discarding bay leaf and garlic.

: Combine 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil, 2 Tbs. shoyu or tamari, 3 Tbs. fresh lemon juice, 1 Tbs. prepared whole-grain mustard.
Steam 2 ears corn and allow to cool. Slice the corn kernels off the cob. Dice 1 sweet red pepper. Slice 2 whole scallions thinly.
Add the corn kernels, red pepper, scallions, 1/4 cup chopped parsley and 1/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts to the beans. Toss, and chill for 1 hour. Serve on a bed of watercress or lettuce leaves.
adapted from The Natural Gourmet by Annemarie Colbin

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This page built by Ray Neff andDavid ResSeguie Last update: June 14, 1996