Growing red maize, and making our own pap.

Just about all maize and soy in South Africa are genetically modified to be resistant to glyphosate based poisons. Although the companies that produce these poisons have declared over and over that they are safe for human consumption, various scientific studies have proven over the past few years that they are not.
A study by Gasnier, et al. (2009) demonstrated that glyphosate in formulation (meaning the poison you buy from the shelf) at 5 ppm (5 mg/kg) had toxic effects and resulted in cell death of human liver, umbilical cord and placental cells within 24 hours of exposure. They also indicated that glyphosate in formulation at 0.5 ppm (0.5 mg/kg) caused endocrine disruption in human liver cells within 24 hours of exposure.

The staple food of most South African’s is maize porridge. We’re eating poison and nobody seems to care. This poison is also found in all but one breakfast cereals, our meat and in our own tissue.

Our maize harvest

We decided to grow as much of our own food as possible, for health reasons, but also to be as independent as possible.

When we became more aware of the wonderful options of heritage maize varieties available, it became a real adventure. In the first year, we planted 3 types of maize. The seeds we bought from Living Seeds who have a fantastic selection. Because of timing, rain and guinea fowl, only one crop worked really well; the Bloody Butcher red maize.

We used the goat and sheep manure mixed with the food they had spilled to make fantastic compost.

Since the birds ate so many of our plants just as they came up, we decided to grow seedlings and plant them out. Stephen patiently planted out about 400 plants which grew fantastically well! Clearly no herbicide here. 🙂

Monkey’s soon discovered that our maize tastes so much better than the neighbour’s GMO Roundup stuff, so losses were once again an issue, but by April 2022, we could harvest about 400 heads of beautiful, red, poison free corn.

The next question was what to do with it. This is not sweetcorn which can be eaten easily from the cob, as it’s quite starchy, and we can’t keep it fresh to eat through winter.

When looking up how maize was processed to make the commercial maize meal available in stores, we were horrified to find that it gets processed to make it almost pure starch. Firstly, it’s roundup-ready, so the plant is genetically modified to grow despite being unable to absorb many essential nutrients from the ground. Then, the protein in the kernel is removed when the embryo is taken out. The shell is also removed. This produces a brilliant white porridge, but means that the nutritional value is even further reduced. South Africa’s maize is supposed to fortified, but alas, apparently even this is often not done. Here’s an interesting Mail and Guardian article on the subject.

We immediately decided to make our own pap. We had no mill however and a new one was out of our price range. Through a local WhatsApp group, we bought an old coffee grinder which does the job quite nicely, although it is a bit labour intensive.

In our research on how to process maize we found a wonderful alternative that is not practised in South africa. Nixtamalization. Yes, a terribly long and difficult word.

This is a process whereby the kernels of the maize is boiled and soaked in an alkali, traditionally wood ash, but also lye water.

“ Nixtamalized maize has several benefits over unprocessed grain: It is more easily ground, its nutritional value is increased, flavor and aroma are improved, and mycotoxins are reduced by up to 97%–100% (for aflatoxins).[2]” Wikipedia

We decided to use the ash mix, as lye was a bit of a challenge to find here in the sticks. The process is fairly simple. Bring a big pot of water to the boil. Add about as much wood ash as your volume of dried maize kernels. When the mix starts boiling, you add the maize. It’s quite a cool process to watch as the maize changes colour almost immediately. In our case with the red maize it turns almost black.

I then boil this mixture for around an hour and let it stand over night. The next morning one rinses the ash and loose shells off. It takes a bit of time, but the result is just absolutely yummy! We eat the maize as is, like the american dish “hominy”, or grind it up to make tortillas!

Have a look at this link if you’d like to see how it’s done traditionally.

Please feel free to comment with more ideas or any questions you may have. I have loads of scientific articles about Roundup and its effects, but I didn’t want to get too technical here.