Walk into the grocery store and you’re surrounded by corn-filled products—from the usual chips and tortillas to the less obvious—toothpaste, milk, sodas and the countless other products full of high-fructose corn syrup.
We’ve become accustomed to the many unhealthy uses of white and yellow corn, but hear very little about some of the less popular varieties—particularly purple corn—and its nutritional benefits.
From the vibrant color to the unique taste, texture, and history, we quickly fell in love with Farmer Scott Johnson’s purple corn in Dakota County, Minnesota. His lavender fields stretch as far as you can see, full of organic, non-gmo purple corn that has descended from an ancient Inca variety.
Beyond its stunning appearance, we learned that purple corn is packed with more protein, fiber, and antioxidants than modern yellow corn.
Farmer Scott works closely with Suntava—the first company to grow, promote and market purple corn in North America. Suntava carefully selects a small group of dedicated farmers like Scott to help ensure the quality, purity, and ongoing nutritional value of purple corn.
We caught up with Terry Howell who oversees marketing and sales for Suntava, to find out more about Suntava’s “amaizing” food.
Q: Most people think “yellow” when they think about corn. Can you tell us a little bit about purple corn?
A: Purple corn is definitely something most consumers here in the US and Canada have never seen before. But if you travel to regions of South America, especially Peru, you find that purple corn is a mainstay of their diet. For hundreds of years Peruvians have been making a drink called Chicha Morada from the purple corn.
Today you don’t need to travel to Peru to enjoy the taste and nutritional benefits of purple corn. Suntava has been working diligently to grow our high antioxidant purple corn in various areas of the US- including Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Oregon, California and Pennsylvania. We plan to expand our growing areas in the years to come.
Q: What are some of the health benefits of purple corn?
A: In nature, purple colored foods and plants are a sign that they are rich in health-promoting anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are what gives these foods, flowers, and other plants their purple, blue, and sometimes red coloring. Common anthocyanin-rich foods would be blueberries, blackberries, and purple grapes.
Purple corn is not only beautiful to look at – it’s really good for you. In addition to giving these plants their beautiful purple color, the anthocyanins they contain provide a host of health benefits including providing a powerful dose of antioxidant protection.
Ounce for ounce purple corn delivers twice the antioxidants as blueberries.
Q: What other foods, besides cereal, is purple corn used for?
A: You can find purple corn in snacks such as tortilla chips and popped chips, artisan breads and other baked goods, granola, craft beer, craft bourbon, salsa, frozen vegetable medleys, and salads.
Here in the US you will find Chicha Morada being served in most Peruvian restaurants. The taste is very unique and very refreshing – it does not taste at all like corn. Peruvians also make a breakfast pudding they call mazamorra morada.
Q: What other colors does corn come in?
A: White and yellow are the two main colors we see. I think everyone is also aware of blue corn – think blue corn tortilla chips. Blue corn and purple corn corn might be kissing cousins but purple corn gets the nod in terms of being a nutritional powerhouse. Both blue and purple corn contain anthocyanins but purple corn contains 4 times more. I have also seen a crimson red corn and a very bright orange corn, and the typical Native American multi-colored corn we use as decorations during Halloween.
Q: How did Suntava get involved with Back to the Roots?
A: We at Suntava have been very active in our efforts to tell the food industry and consumers about purple corn and its health promoting potential. Purple corn fit well with what Back To The Roots is all about…keeping foods simple and healthy.