Miguel Uribe, Tierra Viviente, Uruapan, Mexico

Recently I started making my own tortillas.  I bought a super sweet tortilla press from a friend in Eureka, Teo,  — her father makes them in his wood shop and the tortilla press glows as it makes super delicious tortillas.  And here’s the thing that I find fascinating — buying pre-made tortillas is really inexpensive, but making your own tortillas?  Let’s try 3.5 cents each.

So when I interviewed Miguel Uribe about his farm, Tierra Viviente — I was intrigued by the story of this beautiful high altitude farm.  The altitude is high there and it takes 10 months to bring in a crop of sweet corn that is then turned into masa.  If you have grown corn closer to sea level, you know that corn doesn’t normally take that long to produce an edible crop.  But there, in the heights of the mountains, without all of the fertilizers that western farmers have become used to, in the cradle where corn was born, the crop takes 10 months.

With an entire year of labor placed into one crop the risk for the farmers and community is enormous.  Once harvested, the chance to sell their crop is dashed by the cheap corn that is already on the market.  Farmers are lucky to break even.

When I heard about Miguel’s crop I was salivating to get a chance to turn that corn into masa for my own new tortilla press.  Rather than paying the $2.60 for a 9 lb sack of masa — I would be willing to pay $20 or more.  Do you see it coming?  In trying to help the dilemma of this region, and a true desire to sample this ancient corn, I might actually price the local people out of their own staple food.

Certainly I don’t know the answer, but I’m sure it isn’t a simple answer either.  I do believe we need to think carefully about food systems, and how farmers all over the world including those in our own back yard can receive an equitable price that allows them to have the same standard of living that I do.

To listen to Part 1 of the 2 part interview with Miguel.  Listen to Part 2.

Also, you can check out a nice video about Miguel on this site

Recipe for Corn Tortillas as told by Teo and understood by Jennifer

Put 4 parts masa and 1 part white flour into a bowl.  (Jennifer adds salt, Teo doesn’t), Add lukewarm water to make the wet-ish dough come together (this part takes practice — too thick and the press won’t mash the tortilla enough).  Form balls and press in tortilla press that is lined with plastic wrap.  Heat a frypan without oil on the stove.  Ease the tortilla off the plastic wrap and tip your fry pan to make it easy to lay the tortilla in the pan without wrinkling it.  Cook until the tortilla is dry which means it slides easily in the pan without sticking.  Turn over the tortilla and cook until the underside gets “freckles” — brown dots.  Flip your tortilla one more time and it should puff immediately into a balloon.  Success!  Remove the tortilla and put on a plate while you cook the rest.  Teo sometimes slices open the balloon and carefully pours a raw egg into the opening.  She cooks the “egg sandwich” until the egg is cooked.

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Corn Crib, Ginger Sarvinski

The corn crib in Pepperwood is a great place to get organic corn, and other vegetables!  And you don’t have to drive down there, Ginger and family can be found at various Farmers Markets throughout the county.  She talked me into getting a case of tomatoes when I already had seven cases waiting for me at the CR Farmers Market — and I roasted them in a 300 degree oven for several hours, which is where you will find the crossroads of savory and sweet in a carmelized slow roasted early girl tomato.  YUM!

Listen to the interview here!