Traditional Tortilla making in the Valley of Mexico by Andrew Ormerod (2005)

When I visited CIMMYT (The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre) in 2005 I was interested in understanding the traditional ways used to make Tortillas.  I am grateful for Mike Listman for taking me to see the process.

The Aztecs developed a technique for releasing the seed coat of maize kernels from the content.  This made extraction of the masa – the dough for making Tortillas easier.   They used a warm lime or wood ash treatment of the seeds as the first step in the process.

Screen Shot 2013-11-07 at 10.57.18Screen Shot 2013-11-07 at 10.57.34 There are not many tortillerias  in this area of the Valley of Mexico where you can the traditional Nixtamalisation process.  This one is in Texcoco.  A tank contains maize in a warm lime solution.  The lime solution is drained off and the seeds washed.

Screen Shot 2013-11-07 at 10.57.54 Screen Shot 2013-11-07 at 10.58.06  Softened maize seeds are put through a mill and the resulting masa dough is divided into portions to make tortillas.

Screen Shot 2013-11-07 at 10.58.37Screen Shot 2013-11-07 at 10.58.19 The Raw tortillas run on a conveyor and are cooked rapidly.  They come out of the machine slightly puffed up – but this goes down quickly.   The tortillas are sold by weight from the counter.

I was taken to see traditional hand made tortillas in a nearby village a popular area  from the valley of Mexico to eat at the weekend.

Screen Shot 2013-11-07 at 10.56.12 Screen Shot 2013-11-07 at 10.55.55                        This lady was making tortillas using blue or black maize seeds – favoured by some communities for its quality.  She is using a hand tortilla press and also shaping tortillas by hand.

Screen Shot 2013-11-07 at 10.56.26Screen Shot 2013-11-07 at 10.57.07                    These tortillas were served with local grated cheese and sliced Opuntia pads (without the thorns!).  They were sliced like green beans.

Thanks for the help from staff at CIMMYT during my visit.

©  Andrew Ormerod 2013


About cornucopiaalchemy

Dr. Andrew Ormerod has 14 years experience working as the Economic Botanist at the Eden Project - researching topical stories, artefacts, ethnobotanical inks, catering and retail links to exhibits. Previously I was involved with plant breeding and plant tissue culture working on a range of crops including winter cauliflowers, agricultural lupins, vining peas, wheat and barley and coconuts. I am now freelance and am interested in opportunities for lecturing; writing articles; consultancy linked to development of botanic gardens for crops based exhibits; supply chain work for unusual food or non-food crops with interesting stories about plants and people attached to them.
This entry was posted in Food and Nutrition, Global food crops, Journey Through Latin America, Latin America, Value added Product. Bookmark the permalink.

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