Aside from its splendid color, blue corn mush is somewhat like cream of wheat. But this traditional Najavo food is more than a simple source of calories and comfort. Thanks to a sprinkling of nutritious juniper ash, it also helps maintain bone health.
Many Navajo people are lactose intolerant. Because dairy isn’t a viable source of nutrients, they’ve relied on juniper ash. To create this natural supplement, they simply burn branches from the juniper tree and collect the ash (check out the video below). One gram of ash contains about as much calcium as a glass of milk, and can be easily stirred into traditional dishes. In the case of blue corn mush, cooks add about a teaspoon of this nutritious powder to the pot.
Juniper ash is an alkaline substance, and exposing it to corn initiates a process called “nixtamalization.” Nixtamalization breaks down the outer shell of the corn, enhancing flavor and increasing the amount of absorbable calcium, niacin, and vitamin B3.
Oreos might be milk’s favorite cookie, but juniper ash is blue corn’s favorite pairing. Plus, it’s got just as much calcium, no milk necessary.
Need to Know
Blue corn mush recipes are available online; just thicken blue corn meal, water, and juniper ash on the stove. If you don't have access to burnable juniper branches, you can order premade ash online.