Huñ (O’odham corn) sprouts quickly from the dry desert earth, maturing in only 60 days. It can grow up to eight feet tall, and produces thin, white ears with reddish silk tassels. Considered a special gift from I’itoi (Elder Brother), corn holds a special place in O’odham life and culture: There are special songs for every phase of the planting and growing cycle.
Once harvested, husked corn is roasted in shallow pits over mesquite fires. The roasted kernels are eaten as snacks and ground for use throughout the year.
Ga’iwsa (Ground roasted corn stew)
Courtesy of Frances Manuel, San Pedro Village
2 cups ground roasted corn
2 tbsp shortening or lard
6-8 cups of water
1 jar mild chile paste (red but not salsa or hot)
1- 2 tablespoons mild chile pepper powder
salt to taste
In a medium saucepan, heat the shortening until smoking. Add the chile powder and stir well. Cook on high heat until bubbling, about 2 minutes. Add 1/4 cup water and 1 jar of chile paste. Remove from heat. In another large saucepan, bring 6 cups of water to a boil. Add the ground corn by the handful, stir. It may look like a lot of water but the ground corn will puff up and swell as it cooks. Add the chile sauce mixture. Stir. Cook on high heat for 45 minutes to an hour or until the kernels are soft and tender and the mixture is thick like oatmeal. Serves 6-8.