Local Food Focus – Hopi Blue Corn

The Blue Corn Maiden

A Hopi Legend


The Blue Corn Maiden is said to be the most beautiful of the corn maiden sisters. The people  loved her very much and they loved the blue corn that she brought to them all year long. Because of this, they felt peace and happiness when she was amongst them.

Hopi Blue Corn

Hopi Blue Corn

One cold winter morning, the Blue Corn Maiden went to gather firewood. This wasn’t a typical chore but she wanted to be helpful. She was outside of her house, when she saw Winter Katsina. Winter Katsina is the spirit whose breath creates the cold wind. He brings winter to earth wearing a blue and white mask.  When he saw the Blue Corn Maiden, he fell in love.

Winter Katsina told the Blue Corn Maiden that she must go to his house. There, he blocked the windows with ice and the doorway with snow and he took her as his prisoner. Even though, Winter Katsina loved her and treated her well, she was sad. She missed her home and wanted to make blue corn grow for the People of the Pueblos.

One day, Winter Katsina went out to to scatter snow on the mesas. While he was away, Blue Corn Maiden pushed the snow from the door and went to look for the plants she loved to find in summer. Beneath the snow, all she could find was four blades of yucca.

She took the yucca to Winter Katsina’s house and made a fire. Once the fire was started, snow in the doorway melted away and in walked Summer Katsina. Summer Katsina had fresh corn in one hand and blades of yucca in the other. He walked toward the Blue Corn Maiden.

At that moment,  Winter Katsina blew winter wind through the doorway. He held an icicle in his hand like a flint knife, and a ball of ice in the other. As Winter Katsina blew cold wind, Summer Katsina blew warm breeze. When Winter Katsina raised an icicle knife, Summer Katsina raised burning yucca leaves to melt the icicle. Winter Katsina saw that he must make peace with Summer Katsina.

The Winter and Summer Katsinas agreed that Blue Corn Maiden would live among the People of the Pueblos for half of the year, in the time of Summer Katsina. The other half of the year, Blue Corn Maiden would live with Winter Katsina.Blue Corn Maiden left with Summer Katsina, and she became the sign of springtime, eagerly awaited by the People of the Pueblos.

There are still times when after spring has come, Winter Katsina will blow cold wind and scatter snow. This is simply to show that he is angry for having to share Blue Corn Maiden for half of the year.

Blue Corn

Blue corn is an essential part of Hopi culture. The Hopi use blue corn in ceremonies naming their infants and believe it represents a long life. Hopi men ate it before long journeys and to this day, they believe in its power.

The Hopi have a reputation as superior dryland farmers. Their conservation is reflected in their crops – most notably in blue corn. Blue corn has several advantages over other corn. It contains 20% more protein and a lower glycemic index. When used for tortillas, blue corn produces a sweeter, nuttier taste.

Hopi Blue Corn Hotcakes

Serves four (12 4 inch hotcakes)
Ingredients:
  • 1 cup of blue corn meal
  • 1 Tbs. sugar
  • 1 Tbs. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 3 Tbs. olive oil
  • 2 eggs beaten
  • 1 cup milk (I use 1%)
Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl and stir. (I have seen a recipe that also includes oats at this point) Add oil, eggs, and milk and mix well. Drop by spoonfuls on a lightly oiled griddle, turning once as cakes brown – usually three to four minutes. Serve with the condiments of your choice and maybe fresh orange slices from a community citrus gleaning.
Leave a comment

75 Comments

  1. Love the story. Its so much fun to remember veggies when there is a story like that backing it. In my country, we have a story about pumpkins :) Makes me want to blog about it.

    Reply
  2. I hadn’t heard that story and I really like it!

    Reply
    • There was a Hopi festival here recently and I was able to purchase a katsina of an artist whom I have followed. That caused me to do some research and I was so happy when I found the story.

      Reply
  3. I love this story! Perfect for this time of year, too, as winter and summer seem to be battling. Thank you, Tammy!

    Reply
    • They are battling, aren’t they Cindy? I see it in the weather news all around – but not here.

      Reply
  4. I didn’t know blue corn those acts about blue corn. Know wonder I like it better than yellow. ;) I also enjoyed the Hopi story of spring. ‘Ve never heard that before – thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  5. The compromise in the story reminds me of a Greek myth that I think is Hades and Persephone, but I will have to double check. It has been so long since I taught it. I love this story. I think it is important for all of American youth to learn those stories.

    Reply
  6. I love blue corn! And what a wonderful story.

    Reply
  7. Lisa H

     /  March 22, 2013

    What a beautiful story! I absolutely love blue corn pancakes! Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  8. Like others I’ve truly enjoyed the story. I’ve never seen or tried Blue Corn, I wonder what it’s taste is like?

    Reply
  9. Up in Wisconsin, it looks like we may have to stage another raid to get the Blue Corn maiden back this year…

    Reply
  10. Love this, Tammy. Wonderful tale . . . well told. :D

    Reply
    • It’s challenging to retell a legend without losing the integrity of the story and while not copying it.

      Reply
  11. Tammy,
    What a wonderful story, thank you for your research as well as your recipe.
    I don’t know where I’ve seen it for sale around here, but I’ll keep an eye out.

    Reply
    • It may be more of a specialty item where you live. We’re fortunate that it’s such an important crop here.

      Reply
  12. The story reminds me a little of the Greek myth about Persephone. :) I love blue corn, and wish it were easier to find products made with it here. Your hotcakes sound delicious!

    Reply
    • Clearly not up on my Greek mythology! Maybe we set up an export to Paris?

      Reply
      • Heh. All those food miles, though… probably better I enjoy what I have here and wait until I’m back in the States for the blue corn. :)

        Reply
  13. Meg

     /  March 22, 2013

    What a great story! I would like to try making blue corn tortillas! I haven’t seen any blue masa harina around here though. I am on a mission now!

    Reply
  14. Never had blue corn, but I’ve had the blue corn chips!

    Reply
  15. I hadn’t heard that story. Lovely. Would love to grow blue corn on the farm. Perhaps I’ll try it this year.

    Reply
  16. Thank you for sharing more info about blue corn! I always learn good things from you!

    Reply
  17. Thank you for sharing this myth with us. It is such a lovely story :)

    Reply
  18. Thanks for the story!

    Reply
  19. I have never come across blue corn before in Belgium! Will check it out! A lovely post with a tasty recipe too!

    Reply
  20. My kind of post, Tammy. What an enchanting tale. I love the idea, instantly, of Winter Katsina and Summer Katsina. You have enriched my day today: thank you.

    Reply
    • Most welcome Kate. I believe there are parallel tales in other mythologies but this one suits our current location best.

      Reply
  21. On the one hand, I love this story, and all such stories, for showing us how cultures throughout time have created mythologies through which to explain the world.

    On the other, in the wake of the recent discussions surrounding perceptions and treatment of women, spurred by the Steubenville horror, and my own feminist inclinations, my hackles rise and I want to ask “What about the Blue Corn Maiden’s agency, huh? What does SHE want?”

    I think it’s probably best I just focus on the deliciousness of your food. Mmm, blue corn anything.

    Reply
  22. That sounds good! I never cooked blue corn before, only had small ones decorate my centerpieces :)

    Reply
  23. What a lovely story! I love how food comes with its own history and mythology. Such importance should be placed on our food! Corn is rare where I am now (UAE) but will definitely try these when I’m back home for the summer! Thanks for a great story and a great recipe!

    Reply
    • Food stories and histories are important to remember. They enable us to connect with one another and our past.

      Reply
  24. I love this story, wrote a poem inspired by it

    Reply
  25. HI Tammy–thank you for sharing this Hopi legend; I enjoyed learning the story. Fitting for this late March/early spring day, where winter is still hanging on.(Snow today!)
    I love the taste of blue cornflour. Some farmers in North Carolina have been cultivating it, and a local Nashville chef sources it from them for a few of his dishes.

    Reply
    • Oh terrific. I didn’t know if the moisture would be an issue since it is such a dry land crop. As I told Carrie above, I don’t know if I really love the taste more or if I just like the “blue”.

      Reply
  26. What a beautiful legend!! And a beautiful corn cob! :D

    Reply
    • Thanks Kath. This corn cob in particular sits in my kitchen. It is from the final crop of one of my Hopi friends’ father before he passed – really really special.

      Reply
  27. Glad mythical tales like this continue to be shared and passed around. What a great accompaniment to the blue corn recipe and picture. (Although I too was curious about the female personification’s lack of authority!)

    Reply
    • I hear you. I hadn’t really thought of it until Hannah pointed it out so I really must give myself a writing assignment to improve upon that!

      Reply
      • You know, I just assumed the original story included those elements and that it was part of your honest & true interpretation of the tale. Amazing how language can steer us! :)

        Reply
  28. I had never heard of blue corn and I love the legend you shared with us. Thank you Tammy.

    Reply
    • The climate is so different where you live than it is on the Hopi reservation – that is probably why.

      Reply
  29. Hi Tammy – love the story, and the recipe. Here in northwestern Ontario, Canada, we have are excited about a special squash that Winona LaDuke brought with her when she visited our community last year. The Anishinaabe name means “really cool old squash” and the squash seeds were originally found during an archeological dig in Wisconsin, preserved in a dried clay ball; they were carbon dated at 800 years old. Winona was gifted with some of the seeds, and grew them at her home on the White Earth Reservation in Minnesota. She brought us one of the “really cool old squash” from her garden, and we have preserved the seeds (there were a few hundred of them), and will share them with whoever is interested. This year will be the first year that we attempt to grow them, but the “local foods” gardeners in our Transition Town group, and our indigenous partners, are very very excited about the opportunity we’ve been given.

    Reply
    • That’s a cool story Christine. The whole notion of seed saving is a cause that me and my family support. It’s through blessings like Winona’s that we are able to retrieve some of those heritage crops.

      Reply
  30. I’m not sure we can get blue corn at our local co-op. But have always loved it when sampling it at restaurants. Thanks, Tammy, for sharing the story of the Blue Corn Maiden.

    Reply
  31. That’s a lovely story.

    Reply
  32. What a cool story!

    Reply
  33. Learned something new. I have never tasted cooked blue corn in its naked state.

    Reply
  34. Sunshine Goldsberry

     /  April 30, 2013

    Someone at a “Seedy Saturday” gave me a few Hopi Blue corn kernals some years ago. I rather carefully saved a wide variety of seed kernals from the next few years’ plants and can only say I am amazed by the robustness of this variety. We could feed whole communities now. Vancouver Island is considered to have rainforest climate but in summer it is cool and dry, perfect for this little workhorse corn. And so tasty. Today it was corn chowder for lunch. (We save it young and off the cob in the freezer for year around eating)

    Reply
  1. Local Food Focus - Hopi Blue Corn | Real Food and Health | Scoop.it

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: