Masa Harina

Masa Harina from Scratch

Recipe Summary

I used to make tamales using dried masa harina flour. Unfortunately, I was unable to find organic masa harina. Not wanting to use genetically modified corn, I was beginning to think I would need to give up tamales all together. Luckily I was able to find recipes for making masa harina from scratch. It is easy to make. Although it does require an overnight soak. I either grow my own corn or purchase from organic kernels from Azure Standard


2 pounds (about 6 cups) of dried organic corn. Azure Standard sells it.

2-3 Tablespoons lime – Not the citrus fruit, but pickling lime, which is a white powder. Pickling lime is Calcium Hydroxide.  Sometimes just called “Cal” or
“Cal Mexicana”.  Cultures for Health sells it.

8 cups water (enough water to cover the corn and extra for it to absorb during the soak)

2 teaspoons salt

Recipe makes about 8-9 cups of fresh masa.


Rinse the dried corn to remove any chaff. There is lots of debris with my home grown corn. This is probably less of an issue with store bought corn.

Add the corn, water, and calcium hydroxide (lime) to a large non-corrosive pot. Stir a little. The lime should dissolve easily.

Bring the corn/water/lime mix to a boil slowly and then let boil 10-15 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Let sit overnight.

The point of this step is not only to hydrate the corn, but to induce a chemical change in the corn itself. The process of using a basic (as in alkaline or basic pH) solution to treat food is called nixtamalization.

Traditional methods of preparing grains and beans as food often involve elaborate processing methods such as fermentation.  Fermentation, for instance, results in an increase in food value and often an elimination of toxic components. You can read more about how fermentation changes brown rice here.

In the case of corn, the lime (traditionally wood ash was used) will make the corn easier to grind up and increase the nutritional value and flavor of the corn. Corn that is not processed is deficient in niacin. It always amazes me that our ancient relatives had the knowledge of how to create food with optimal nutrition.

After the corn has been boiled and soaked, rinse it with water while rubbing the kernels to remove and coating or husk.

I divide the corn into two bowls in my sink. I fill the first with fresh water and then knead the corn through my fingers.  While I am doing this I turn the water spigot to the second bowl. I drain off the water and floating debris in the first bowl and then move the spigot back to fill the first bowl with water. While it is filling I rub the corn in the second bowl and drain off the debris.

I repeat this over a dozen times or until the water is pretty well clear. I think it takes more effort with my homegrown kernels because they aren’t as well cleaned in the first place.

Once I’ve gotten them clean, or when I am tired of rinsing, I put about four cups (half the batch) of the corn in the Wide BlendTec Blender.  I add about 1 teaspoon salt per blender batch and 2 to 5 tablespoons of water. Just add water to get the consistency you like. Some people use a food processor for this step. Traditionally it was done with a grinding stone.

The side photos show the finished masa. The bluer version in the blender with spatula used more blue kernels. The lower two pictures are masa made with mostly yellow corn.

New Moon

The new moon was this morning. This is a good day to begin a new project or put in motion something you’ve been planning. As the name suggests, the new moon is perfect time to start something new. This is because the energy of the moon moving to fullness will influence the flow and fruition of your project.

moon over strongholdThere is no place better to witness the effects of the moon than in nature. Both low tides and high tides are at their maximum during the new moon (as well as the full moon). The moisture levels in the ground also fluctuate in response to the moon. The new moon drawing more moisture up to higher levels in the ground. Because of the increased moisture and the energetic aspects of creating fullness, the time between the new moon and the full moon is perfect for planting seeds.

I find that seeds germinate faster when the moon is moving towards fullness. You can plant on the new moon, but really anytime between the new and the full moon is fine. In fact, for seeds that only take a week to germinate, I’d recommend just a few days before the moon is full. I once seeded out some basil, which typically takes 5 to 10 days to germinate, and I was seeing sprouts in under 48 hours!

Last week I prepared my garden bed (See June 21 post) and  installed a mini-sprinkler line  Now I’m ready to plant.  So what do I plant?

When I first came to Phoenix I relied on the Urban Farmer’s Low Desert Planting and Harvesting Calendar.  I was new to this climate and needed all the help I could get picking the right plant for the season.  However, I’ve found that some of their recommendations are not right on for me.  For instance, squash and pumpkins planted in the summer never produced for me, but the tomatoes I planted in August did great.

I’ll try the squash again.  It would be nice to have pumpkins in October.  Although I’m thinking an August planting might be a better idea.  I suspect corn will do great as well as the sunflower.  And I’ll put out some watermelon.  They will look good climbing up the fence.  I already have some volunteers in the back yard.  I even ate my first watermelon a couple of weeks ago.  I saw a packet of Nasturtium in my collection, but found via a quick internet search I will have to wait for it to cool down to plant those.

If you want other ideas – basil is fantastic all summer long (but I have so many volunteers I wouldn’t dream of planting that).  In fact if you want some nice lemon basil, just stop by!  Let me know what you like to plant in the summer…