Get Those Good Tortillas
We’ve covered that corn is central in Mexican cuisine and culture. There, corn is heritage. Here, in America, corn is as prolific, but less as a part of our culture and more as a blanket ingredient within the industrial food model. It is ubiquitous, present in our food, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, cleaning products, even textiles.
Michael Pollen tells us that, if you doubt that truth, you can take a chemical test to prove it, one that measures a particular carbon structure leftbehind by the being that consumed all that corn. “Compare a hair sample from an American and a tortilla-eating Mexican and you’ll discover that the American contains a far larger proportion of corn-type carbon,” he says. The alarming difference is in the type of corn consumption among Americans—high fructose corn syrup is in everything—and the industrial processes of major corn production harming our land and farmers.
I argue it better than to seek out corn and corn products from small farmers, from non-GMO sources that offer, as Masienda says, enriching context, genuine hospitality, and support of agricultural biodiversity. And the taste of a good tortilla—its richness, nutrients, aroma, and flavor—as Danielle Dahlin from Masienda told me, can be life-changing.
If you desire that good masa, I’ve brought together some sources of non-GM and organic corn products local to America, as well as those that source heritage corn from Mexico, so that you can buy good corn and good tortillas and test the difference for yourself. Maybe it will change your life!
Supplier of heritage corn and corn products, Masienda has slowly built its own version of the masa value chain in order to “not only share the richness of heirloom corn with the world but also help preserve one of the world’s most important crops.” They partner with hundreds of traditional Mexican farmers to sell heirloom corn, beans, chiles and spices wholesale and to consumers. You can buy a masa starter kit that includes two bags of their bestselling masa harina, already ground and nixtamalized, and ready to press into tortillas with the included tortilla press.
One of the co-founders of Mi Tierra Tortillas, Michael Doctor, told me the origin story of this lovely tortilleria, which claims to be the first authentic tortilla bakery in New England. The company creates tortillas from 100% Organic NON-GMO local New England corn, ground limestone, and water. The corn is produced, again, using ancient nixtamal methods to form a masa dough which is shaped into tortillas and baked. Tortillas are available for purchase and delivery to Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, & New Jersey.
A tortilla company based in Dover, New Hampshire offering organic and locally sourced corn tortillas, from crops sourced within 30 miles of their kitchen. They also support Indigenous New Hampshire, and the Cowasuck Band of the Pennacook Abenaki People, demonstrating efforts to protect the heirloom corn of New Hampshire. Available in New Hampshire, Maine, and Massachusetts.
This is my local joint, centered in Charlottesville, Virginia. These are made by Ula, with certified organic, non-GMO corn, nixtamalized in the same process used for millennia in ancient Mesoamerican civilizations. Available in stores in Virginia, DC, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania.
A tortilleria that opened in Oakland in 1939 and has been making authentic corn tortillas using organic, non-GMO corn from the Sacramento Valley ever since. Available throughout California.
Two environmentalists joined forces in the opening of this tortilla company using 100% VOF certified organic corn grown by Adirondack Organic Grains farmers in New York. Available throughout the Northeast, or beyond with expedited shipping.
Believers in simple food, clean food, this tortilla company recently moved to San Antonio, Texas. They not only offer organic, non-GMO corn tortillas, but also homemade tamales. Available in Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Arkansas.
These aren’t the only local tortilla companies making great, clean products. There are many many more; it just takes a little research to find the best tortillas in your area. And you can find many non-GM, organic options through larger companies as well, like La Tortilla Company, El Comal, and Thrive Market; these can ship farther and last longer because they often contain ingredients that help preserve the product.
One common testimony often noted about these organic, authentic corn products: that they are NOT like the mass-produced versions you can find in every supermarket. They are a world above. It is up to you to want that world and then find it. It is out there. And those who make these corn tortillas want, more than anything else, to bring you into their world.
You just need to support what is better.