What is sown in the field: the milpa

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Bra, Italy

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February 25th at 17:00 in your time zone

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The name milpa comes from Nahuatl, the original language of the Aztec people, and means “what is sown in the field.”  It’s a complex Mesoamerican system of crop association – in particular corn, beans and pumpkins  – that dates back to the Neolithic period.   The milpa has long represented the key to ensuring food security for many indigenous and rural populations in Mexico.

Using the milpa system the local population is able to sow and harvest what it needs, from beans to vegetables and fruits. One omnipresent crop is corn, a widely-used ingredient in Mexican cuisine. One harvested, the corn is processed using nixtamalization, a pre-Hispanic technique which involves cooking the corn kernels in limewater, giving us a corn paste rich in nutrients. Many families nixtamalize corn harvest in the milpa in their home. The resulting product is the main ingredient in the preparation of tortillas, which are accompanied by beans and vegetables. The Chiapas Milpa System is a Slow Food Presidium.

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