Garden to Plate

(originally posted on on 9/7/11)

After waiting patiently all spring and summer, I’m happy to say it’s finally time to harvest the corn!  As a first time gardener, you just can’t go wrong with corn.  It definitely gives the biggest bang for the buck.  It’s pretty easy to grow and it grows fast plus it’s magnificiently tall and creates a wonderful green border in front of my ugly wooden fence.  And in my particular case it was almost entirely free since I got the seeds gratis from the Sowing Millions Project.  The only real expense was time spent, which was pretty pleasant all around.

However, I really didn’t pay too close attention to exactly what kind of corn seeds I was sent, so color me surprised when I discovered that I had purple corn.


Turns out I have Inca corn, with is a South American strain of corn.  Ever had it?  If you’ve ever eaten Peruvian food you probably have.  The first time I ate at  Peruvian restaurant here in LA I was taken aback by how BIG the corn was – and chewy.  The first couple of ears we pulled off we prepared on the cob – you know, like they do with sweet corn in Indiana where I’m from.  That’s pretty much the only way to eat corn there.  Well, that is not an appetizing way to eat this kind of corn.  It’s dry and chewy and most of it ends up coating your teeth like paste.  We decided that since we’re about to have about, oh, 50 ears of corn ready to eat we best come up with some new recipes for this corn.

I found this wonderful recipe online for South American tamales, or humitas.  I found it on this wonderful blog called Laylita’s Recipes.  It’s the same place where I found the recipe for Dulce de Higos after we came back from Ecuador.  Laylita’s blog is a treasure trove of South American recipes, complete with stories from growing up and preparing these dishes with her family.  Love it!  Here’s the recipe I used, with a few tweaks:


  • 6-7 fresh ears of corn, with husks
  • 3 cups grated or crumbled cheese, mozzarella or a fresh farmers cheese (I used a mix of both)
  • 1 cup diced white onions, about ½ large onion
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • About 1 cup corn meal
  • ¼ cup of heavy cream (I used half and half)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp salt

SidesAji de tomate de arbol or tree tomato hot sauce (I couldn’t find tamarillos at either the Mexican market across the street or at the Mexican chain grocer Vallarta, so I made a roasted tomatillo salsa)


  1. Remove the husks from the corn; try to keep each husk intact, the large ones will be used as wrappers for the humitas and the smaller ones will be broken into long strips to tie around the humitas. (I found it helpful to cut off the bottom of the corn so that the wide husks wouldn’t tear down the middle when you peel the corn)
  2. To help make the corn husks more pliable place them in a pot of boiling water for a couple of minutes, then drain the water and save the husks until ready to use.
  3. Remove the silky hairs from the corn and use a knife to cut the corn kernels from the cob, if you don’t have a steamer save the cobs to use as a steamer.
  4. Place the corn kernels, 1 cup of cheese, diced onions, crushed garlic, ground coriander, corn meal, cream, eggs, and salt in the food processor, mix until the corn is pureed.
  5. In large deep pot place about 2 ½ cups of water and a steamer, the water should be just below the steamer, if you don’t have a steamer arrange the cobs on the bottom of the pan instead and cover them with some of the leftover husks.
  6. To fill each humita use 2 of the large corn husks per humita, place them on top of each other, fold the left side of the husks, then fold the top half over the bottom half, this creates a semi-pocket, fill it with a spoonful of the mixture (how much mixture will depend on the size of the husks, the larger the husks the more filling you can add) and stuff some of the remaining cheese in the middle, now fold over the right side of the husk and tighten it up a little bit, use the thin strips to tie around the wrapper and keep it closed. (okay, this was really, really hard for me, and I cheated a bit and tied them with kitchen string because the husks were just too delicate for my large, clumsy hands)
  7. Place the humitas in the pot on top of the steamer, I like to keep them slightly inclined with the open end on top. Place any leftover husks on top and cover well.
  8. Place the pot on the stove over high heat until you hear the water boiling, reduce to a simmer and cook for about 35-40 minutes, the cooked humitas will be slightly firm to firm when they are done.
  9. Serve warm with aji de tomate de arbol or tree tomato hot sauce. (I used roasted tomatillo salsa and a I also made a yummy Peruvian green sauce which I found a recipe for here)

Adam and I decided these were super yummy and perhaps I’ll make them again so I can practice my tamale-rolling skills.  So there you have it – from garden to plate!