Indigenous Corn Cookie Recipe for Times of Gathering
In honor of Native American Heritage Month, which takes place every year in November, we're thrilled to share this seasonal report and Indigenous recipe from our partner at Dragonfly's Garden and Three Sisters Garden, both dedicated to the cultivation of Indigenous First Foods and Medicines.
Dragonfly's Garden and Three Sisters Garden, both located in Southern Oregon University’s (SOU’s) community garden, are dedicated land spaces for the cultivation of Indigenous First Foods and Medicines. In these gardens, students and alumni of the Native American Studies Program (NAS) learn about Indigenous Fiirst Foods and companion planting.
Through Banyan Botanicals’ financial support and partnership with these gardens, Indigenous students are able to learn about and grow First Foods from the spring season through the fall, while also pursuing their own individual exploration.
From Seed to Harvest: A Season of Indigenous Foods
As the manager of Dragonfly's Garden, I get to experience and behold the beauty and blessing of connecting to the land first hand. I witness students tuning into harvesting windows, connecting with the plants, trying new recipes, cooking together, and sharing in the bounty of nourishing foods.
This spring, the garden was graced with the presence of camas bulbs, a First Food staple for the local Indigenous peoples, the Shasta and Takelma tribes, and other tribes of the region since time immemorial. Camas is also an early bloomer known to feed local pollinator species.
In the summer, tomatoes were prolific, as were the cucumbers, beans, peppers, eggplant, parsley, and summer squash. We were able to give away many boxes of food to local Indigenous students and families.
At the Three Sisters Garden, Amanda Rose (garden manager) and I obtained donations of Indigenous varieties of seeds which made it possible to plant, grow, and harvest corn, beans, and squash—known as the “Three Sisters.”
Together, these plants have a beneficial symbiotic relationship. The corn provides support for the beans to grow on and the beans feed nitrogen back into the soil, which supports the growth of the squash. The squash provides a layer of mulch to keep moisture in the soil and protects the corn from bugs with its hair-like vines.
The most satisfying part of this year’s growing season at the garden was being able to process the corn that was previously harvested and dried using the corn processing tools (flour mill, storage bags, and labels) that were donated by Banyan Botanicals.
We bagged the cornmeal into storage bags and I designed and printed out labels that included a cookie recipe from Sean Sherman’s cookbook, The Sioux Chef's Indigenous Kitchen. In total, about 65 bags were handed out to elders and families at SOU’s annual Indigenous Peoples’ Day event.
Connecting Over Cookies
In late October, Erin (Banyan’s Social and Environmental Responsibility Manager) and I came together to make cookies using the same cornmeal. We followed the Autumn Harvest Cookie Recipe from Sherman’s book, which is included below. While baking, we shared stories of hardship and also some laughs.
In the words of I-Collective, an autonomous group of Indigenous chefs, activists, herbalists, seed savers, and knowledge keepers, gathering in this way cultivates “an important connection to ourselves, our ancestors, and our communities.”
Autumn Harvest Corn Cookies
In Ayurveda, corn is considered to have a sweet rasa, or taste, and balance both vata and pitta dosha. Because these cookies are made with dried cornmeal rather than fresh corn, and include very little additional sugar and fat, they are also fine for kapha to enjoy in moderation.
The concept of taste goes beyond the flavor of a substance alone; it is known in Ayurveda to carry a certain energetic quality and even particular emotions.
In addition to cornmeal, the recipe calls for flour. Ideally, you would use an indigenous flour such as wild rice, chestnut, or acorn flour, but since these are not always readily available you can use any flour of your choosing. We used rice flour, which is also balancing for vata and a great choice for vata season.
Adapted from the book The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen by Sean Sherman with Beth Dooley. Published by the University of Minnesota Press, 2017. Copyright 2017 Ghost Dancer, LLC. Used by permission.
Makes about 12 cookies
- ½ cup fine cornmeal or corn flour
- ½ cup flour of choice*
- ½ cup sunny butter (see recipe below)
- A generous pinch of salt
- A dash of cinnamon
- ¼ cup maple sugar or maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons walnut oil (or oil of choice)
- 2 tablespoons ghee (optional, if more moisture is desired)
- ¼ cup cooked wild rice
- ¼ cup (or more) of chopped nuts, cranberries, or your favorite dried fruit*
* While Ayurveda recommends eating fruit alone, we feel okay about adding a small bit of dried fruit to this recipe for sweetness. Feel free to leave it out if you choose.
Preheat oven to 350°F. In a large bowl, whisk together cornmeal, flour, Sunny Butter, salt, and cinnamon. Stir in maple sugar or maple syrup, oil, ghee (optinal), rice, nuts, and dried fruit. Mix all ingredients together to make a firm dough.
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Using a teaspoon and your hands, form one inch balls and place them about an inch apart on the baking sheet. Flatten slightly with your fingers or a fork. Bake until the cookies are golden brown at the edges, about 8–10 minutes.
Share the warm cookies with your loved ones, or cool and store in an airtight container for up to three days.
Sunny Butter Recipe
Makes 2 ½ cups
- 2 cups unsalted toasted sunflower seeds
- 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
- 1 cup maple syrup (or less for less sweetness)
Place the sunflower seeds into a food processor with a steel blade and grind. Add salt and maple syrup and process until creamy. Can be ground in smaller batches if needed.
More Indigenous Foods Resources:
- Learn more about North American Traditional Indigenous Food Systems, founded by Sean Sherman.
- Shop Tocabe Marketplace to purchase Native and Indigenous ingredients online.