Ark of Taste
Chicos is the name given to dried corn. While the word "chicos" is mostly known in New Mexico, it is dried all over the southwest US. The dried kernels are small and wrinkled in appearance, and if the corn was roasted before drying, it can be very dark as well. When they are cooked, usually in combination with beans (a handful to a pot), they swell up to their former size and taste like freshly smoked corn. They are also cooked alone, but as they are very labor intensive to produce, this preparation method is more rare.
Chicos are made in two different ways. In the first method field corn is picked, shucked, then tied into ristras (strings) and hung to dry or alternatively, dried on screens. Once dehydrated, it is rubbed off the cob, and cooked until the kernels become clear, giving the corn a sweet, fresh taste. In the second method, white or yellow field corn is picked but not shucked, then put into a horno (adobe oven) to roast overnight. It is then tied into ristras and hung in the air to dry. Once the kernels are completely dried out, they are rubbed off the cobs and stored until ready to use. The kernels are dark from being roasted, and the roasting enhances their taste, adding a smoky flavor.
Chicos are traditionally made by the American Indian nations of the southwest US as well as by the Hispanic culture that settled in the region hundreds of years ago.