The first mention of the word hominy in print occurs in Capt. John Smith's True Travels, 43, 1630. Dr Wm. Jones (inf'n, 1906) says: "It is plain that the form of the word hominy is but an abbreviation, for what is left is the designative suffix -min, 'grain,' and part of a preceding modifying stem. Hominy, as we know today, is dry corn that has been boiled and soaked in an alkali solution. The process of treating dried corn with an alkali is called nixtamalization. The common alkali solutions are of lime or lye. Alkali propertieshelp dissolve the glue-like material on a cell wall, known as hemicellulose. This process loosens the hull and germ of the kernels. The fruit of the kernel softens and expands to about twice its normal size.

The nixtamalization process develops several advantages in hominy over a regular kernel. Hominy is more easily ground, has a better nutritional value, stronger flavor and aroma, and a reduced level of mycotoxins. When the fruit of the corn expands, it absorbs calcium or potassium, depending on the alkali source. During the cooking, proteins and nutrients in the endosperm of the kernel become more available to our bodies through a change in the grains protein matrix. Essentially, this process makes bound niacin free niacin, making it available for absorption into our bodies. Historically, this aspect of the food was extremely important. In the 15th century Christopher Columbus brought corn to Europe and eventually the Portuguese spread it to Africa. The problem was that while the corn was brought to new lands, the practice of nixtamalization was not. As populations became more dependent on corn as a primary staple, pellagra, a disease due to the chronic lack of niacin, became prevalent. Mesoamerica had relied on corn for hundreds of years, but the key to its success was in nixtamalization. 

Another important quality of hominy is its ability to make dough with the addition of water. This aspect has helped define many cultural foods in Mesoamerica. Foods like tamales, tortillas, arepas, pozole and many more traditional foods that are made from dough produced with hominy. Hominy, however, was not only prevalent in Mesoamerica. Explorers such as Christopher Columbus and John Smith have early accounts of the prevalence of corn among North American Natives, who also practiced the nixtamalization of corn. While Mesoamericans used slack lime, North American Natives achieved alkali solutions using wood ash lye. In Virginia, there even exists a Native American tribe named Chickahominy, meaning "The Coarse Ground Corn People. Many Northern Native Americans commonly ground the corn before adding it to a wood ash lye solution.


Today hominy and its byproducts can be found at restaurants and grocery stores. However, the majority of these products are Mesoamerican based foods: tortillas, tortilla chips, tamales, pozole, etc. Here at Sacred Seed we strive to reintroduce traditional indigenous foods and food practices. We have created for you a video guide on how to make hominy in your home using wood ash lye. If you are interested in learning more about the traditional way of making hominy, here is an excerpt from Chronicles of Oklahoma American called American Indian Corn Dishesby Muriel H. Wright. This excerpt focuses not only on the methods of production, but also includes a variety of recipes at the end. I encourage you to check it out!