Obtaining Suitable Corn

My initial enthusiasm for making chicha was dimmed by the lack of corn suitable for malting. I wanted something other than our standard grocery store yellow corn because I thought it would be more authentic.

Animal feed stores proved to be unfruitful. The folks at the two or three places I tried all told me that their corn feed was not fit for human consumption. While they may have been merely covering their backsides, I decided to take them at their word for the same reason. "Health food" stores also proved to be of no use to me, but Bill and Wendy had luck obtaining blue corn this way.

El Mercado

Thanks to a tip from Roberto Foss, I finally found what I was looking for at El Mercado.

El Mercado ("The Market") is a great big 3-story Mexican mall in Boyle Heights, east of downtown Los Angeles. If it's Latino, it's there. Clothes, food in any desired stage of preparation, spices, boots (Great prices on boots!), lots of other leather goods, entertainment, etc. Go up to the third floor and have gorditas and Tecate with salt and lime and watch the terrific bands. Plan on spending at least half a day.

El Mercado has both yellow and red dried corn on the second floor. It's available in several shops and ranges in price from $1 to 75 cents a pound, so shop around. I bought 50lbs and so was able to do a little better. Careful! The red corn I got turned out to be buggy. I used much of it anyways, but had to throw a lot out.

How to get to El Mercado.

Sources for Growing

While El Mercado is a good source of maize, in the beginning we had to grow our own corn. We continue to do this for the variety it offers.

A wonderful seed catalog that has exotic types of corn:

Seeds of Change
PO Box 15700
Santa Fe, NM 87506-5700
(505) 438-8080

This is a beautiful catalog full of color pictures that is worth having in its own right. The catalog contains many different kinds of corn, each with attributes which may make it more suitable to grow where you live (note that the website does not contain all the varieties in the catalog). Some will mature faster than others, some need more or less water, etc. The 1996 catalog has an interesting article on cultivating maize in Oaxaca, Mexico. Two that beg to be grown and made into chicha are Black Aztec Sweet Corn and Oaxacan Green Dent Corn. I've not brewed with the Green, but the Black makes excellent chicha.

The "decorative" (non-sweet or "starch") types are perfectly suitable for making chicha and you'd think that different corns would give chicha of different characters, but after more than a few batches, it appears that the type of corn used has surprizingly little affect on the finished chicha other than color.

Back to the Chicha Page.