“Corn, as a basic ingredient, comes with many stories. The legend says that the Chorotega people come from maize kernels and that an indigenous woman running through the middle of the cornfield was pricked by a thorn, and drops of her blood fell on the crop, thus painting the maize in different colors.”
This phrase begins the book, “La Cocina Ancestral de las Mujeres del Maíz” (The Ancestral Cuisine of the Maize Women), in which women from Costa Rica’s Chorotega region share their secrets and stories related to traditional dishes with corn as their main ingredient. The cookbook came out of a project by EARTH Futures and the CRUSA Foundation, which seeks to strengthen the agro-chain of Creole maize in the Guanacaste province. Since the project’s inception, its goal has been to work with 40 small producers on precision agriculture, sustainability, and market access issues.
“Through this project, we work on feasible solutions with the use of precision agriculture so that producers have more information about their land and can make better decisions. We even managed to install biofactories so that families could produce their own compost and fertilizers. We also work on the issue of market access and, since we know that many people do not know well what to do with corn, we began to systematize the recipes. However, besides showing the culinary processes, we wanted to show the cultural value and human face behind each dish made with corn. This is how we gave shape to the cookbook that helps position the Maize Women while letting others learn about a crop that is so important to our culture,” says project manager Karina Poveda.
The Maize Women Cooperative in Nicoya is one of the main entities behind the book’s production through the systematization of recipes. The women come from different communities, and with much effort, they have managed to safeguard the traditions and culture around maize.
“We have a wide variety of dishes that we have been learning from generation to generation. I grew up with my grandmother, and with her, I learned to prepare many things. Now it’s my turn to teach the new generations, so the tradition is not lost. Our dream in the cooperative is to become great entrepreneurs, to have access to markets throughout the country. I dream that people from other provinces will want to try ‘rosquillas’ (corn doughnuts), ‘tanelas’ (corn tortillas with cheese), and ‘chicheme’ (a corn beverage), and have places where we can offer these products,” says Ana María Matarrita García, a maize teacher.
EARTH Futures is preparing for the pre-release of the book and is also implementing a campaign called The Pujagua Route, with which they hope to link traditional producers and cooks with restaurants, hotels, and consumers in different parts of Costa Rica. The campaign will take place this year from November 15 to December 15. During this time, various restaurants in the Greater Metropolitan Area will buy at least 100 kilos (220 pounds) of purple corn from one of the participating producers to offer a dish featuring the special ingredient. Through this effort, they hope to promote the preparation of dishes, consumption, knowledge, democratization, and fair trade of Costa Rican “pujagua” (purple corn).
If you are in Costa Rica, we invite you to follow our social networks to learn more about this initiative and try the delicious dishes made with purple corn. If you would like to buy the cookbook, you can fill out this form.
Follow the Pujagua Route with us!