Sprouted polenta is one of my family’s favorite side dishes, the perfect accompaniment to roasted or braised meat.
Polenta is an Italian dish made with corn flour cooked in chicken stock. I use sprouted corn flour to make polenta, as unsoaked corn flour causes vitamin deficiencies, particularly niacin.
Corn, Nixtamalization & Vampires
Nixtamalization is the process of preparing corn by soaking it for 1-2 weeks with lime (called “cal,” an alkali) and water. This reduces anti-nutrients in the corn, and helps to release the niacin from the corn, which prevents pellagra, which is a deficiency of niacin, a B vitamin.
The myth of the vampire may have originated as a result of the pellagra outbreaks in Europe. People suffering from pellagra are extremely sensitive to sunlight. If exposed to the sun, the skin turns shiny with scaly areas. They also experience insomnia, anxiety, aggression, and depression. Pellagra also causes leisions in the mucuous membranes, particularly in the stomach and colon. People with pellagra lose their appetite and can not eat normal food; this may have contributed to the myth that vampires do not eat and only drink blood to survive.
First recognized in 1735, pellagra was the scourge of Europe and then the United States for two centuries. For years, an infectious or genetic cause was suspected, but pellagra is generally the consequence of a diet which relies upon corn as a staple because the niacin and tryptophan in corn are bound and have poor bioavailability.
…according to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word vampire first entered English in 1734, the year before pellagra was noted by a royal physician as a ‘disgusting indigenous disease’ among Spanish peasants. (Source: Pellagra and the origin of a myth: evidence from European literature and folklore)
During this time, pellagra was rare in the Americas, where corn was native. This is because the peasants in Mexico and Central America employed nixtamalization.
Sprouted Corn Flour
Instead of soaking corn flour, you can now buy sprouted corn flour online, thanks to Peggy of To Your Health Sprouted Flour. As far as I know, she is the only manufacturer offering sprouted corn flour. It is not necessary to soak your corn flour if you are using sprouted corn flour.
The leftover polenta will keep for a while in the fridge. You can just warm it up on the stove, or better yet, make patties and fry it in expeller pressed coconut oil or lard.
You should store your sprouted corn flour in the freezer.
Equipment Needed for This Recipe
Saucepan or Dutch Oven