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For Spanish omelette, see Tortilla de patatas. For Mexican and Central American corn tortilla, see Corn tortilla. For Mexican flour tortilla, see Flour tortilla. For South American tortilla, see Sopaipilla. Tortillas being made in Old Town San Diego.

The tortilla (Spanish pronunciation: [tortiÊŽa], pronounced /tÉ”rˈtijÉ™/ in English) is a flatbread made from corn or wheat. The word ``tortilla`` originally comes from the Spanish word torta, which means ``round cake``.[1] When Spanish explorers discovered an unleavened flatbread made by the Aztecs, they called it tortilla (little torta).

Tortillas have been used for many centuries in Mexico, where they are consumed year round. More recently other countries have begun producing them to serve the Mexican market and the growing demand for Mexican food, particularly in North America, Europe and Eastern Asia. Tortillas are most commonly prepared with meat to make dishes such as tacos, burritos, and enchiladas, however, there are many alternate versions without meat.


Different meanings of tortilla

The Spanish word tortilla [toɾˈtiʎa] denotes two different classes of foods, depending on where the term is encountered. In Spain, Puerto Rico, Cuba and South America, a tortilla is any omelette, often a round, layered omelette (i.e., not folded over), most typically made with chopped potatoes (Tortilla de patatas) cooked in vegetable oil, mixed with beaten eggs and such seasonings as the chef desires, and cooked very slowly on the stove. It is usually served cold as an appetizer, tapas, or bar snack. The terms Spanish tortilla, tortilla española or tortilla de patatas all refer to a common recipe in Spain, an omelette with fried potatoes and chopped onion, often served in Spanish bars and cafés. American versions of Spanish and South American tortilla are usually cooked in vegetable shortening, commonly with bell pepper and/or onion and/or chives; and typically served warm instead of cold.

In Panama, a tortilla is a deep fried cornmeal disk, slightly smaller than a hockey puck.

But it is the Mexican meaning of ``tortilla`` that may be most familiar to North Americans and Europeans.[citation needed] The corn tortilla (tortilla de maíz), made from specially treated (nixtamalized) maize flour, have been a staple food of the Mexican region since pre-Columbian times; these are also now commonly made from wheat flour (tortilla de harina or tortilla de trigo).

The two versions of the Mexican tortilla have different textures owing to the grains from which they originate: the maize version is somewhat thicker and heartier in texture, while the wheat version is less easily broken, due to its elevated gluten content, and therefore often larger in circumference.

Corn tortillas are commonly eaten throughout the western world as tortilla chips, and are an essential ingredient in many popular Mexican and dishes such as enchiladas, tostadas, and flautas. Tacos, while commonly made with corn tortillas in Mexico, are made with either maize or wheat tortillas in the US (as at the popular chain restaurant Taco Bell). (See main articles on Mexican cuisine and Tex-Mex.)

The flour tortilla is probably best known as the tortilla used to make burritos, a dish originating in northern Mexico. Wheat tortillas have also become a staple of the peoples of northwestern Mexican states (such as Sonora and Chihuahua) and many southwestern US Native American tribes.

Maize tortillas are known in the Basque region of Spain as talo and were a traditional Basque farmers' staple until the introduction of railborne wheat flour suitable for bread. There are maize tortillas in other regions of Northern Spain, such as Asturias, where they are called frixuelos, and Galicia, where they receive the name of filloas.

The South American tortilla of Argentina, Bolivia and Chile, is inspired by the Mexican food, but is a small flat cake, usually salty, made with wheat or corn flour, and cooked over embers.

History of the tortilla

An 1836 lithograph of women making tortillas in early 19th-century Mexico. By Carl Nebel.

It is impossible to give an exact date or location for the invention of the tortilla. According to Mayan legend, tortillas were invented by a peasant for his hungry king in ancient times. The first tortillas, which date back to approximately 10 000 BC, were made of native corn with dried kernel. The Aztecs used a lot of corn, both eaten straight from the cob and in recipes. They would grind the corn into cornmeal and from this make a dough called masa.[2]

Excavations in the “Valle de Tehuacán” in the state of Puebla, Mexico, have revealed the use around 3000 BC of the basic cereal, a small, wild cob, eaten by native people. According to Agustín Gaytán, chef and Mexican Cuisine historian, in a Greeley Tribune newspaper article:

``Sometime about 3000 BC, people of the Sierra Madre mountains in Mexico hybridized wild grasses to produce large, nutritious kernels we know as corn. Mexican anthropologist and maize historian Arturo Warman credits the development of corn with the rise of Mesoamerican civilizations such as the Mayans and the Aztecs, which were advanced in art, architecture, math and astronomy. The significance of corn was not lost on indigenous cultures that viewed it as a foundation of humanity. It is revered as the seed of life. According to legend, human beings were made of corn by the Gods. By the time Spaniards reached the shores of what is now Mexico in the 1400s, indigenous Mesoamericans had a sophisticated and flavorful cuisine based on native fruits, game, cultivated beans and corn and domesticated turkeys``.[3]

April 22, 1519, Spaniards led by Hernán Cortés, also known as Hernando Cortez, arrived in the “New World” (what we know in modern-day as Cuba and Mexico). They discovered that the inhabitants (Aztecs, Mexicans) made flat corn bread. The native Nahuatl name for this was tlaxcalli.

In Cortés' 1520 second letter to King Charles V of Spain, he described the public markets:

“This city has many public squares, in which are situated the markets and other places for buying and selling. . . where are daily assembled more than sixty thousand souls, engaged in buying and selling; and where are found all kinds of merchandise that the world affords, embracing the necessaries of life, as for instance articles of food. . . maize or Indian corn, in the grain and in the form of bread, preferred in the grain for its flavor to that of the other islands and terra-firma”.[4]

This bread made from corn was later given the name ``tortilla`` by the Spanish.

In 1529, the Franciscan friar Bernardino de Sahagun was sent to New Spain (Mexico) to compile a compendium of all things relating to the native history and custom that might be useful in the labor of Christianizing the Aztecs that were named Indians by the Spain conquerors. The work occupied some seven years, in collaboration with the best native authorities, and was expanded into a history and description of the Aztec people and civilization in twelve manuscript books, together with grammar (Arte) and a dictionary of the language.[5]

In his expansive manuscripts - General History of the Things of New Spain (Historia general de las cosas de Nueva España), Sahagun described how the Aztec diet was based on corn, tortillas, tamales and a wide variety of chiles. He compiled and translated testimonies of his culinary informants from the native language of Nahuatl into Spanish. Because of his work, it is known as the most complete record of Aztec foods and eating habits, and he is considered one of the fathers of culinary history.

Traditionally, corn tortillas were made by soaking corn kernels in a lime/water solution to remove their skins, and then grinding them into corn dough (masa). A golf ball size piece of dough was patted down by hand into a thin pancake shape. It was then placed onto a hot griddle (comal) and cooked on both sides. This tortilla-making process is still used today in the southern area of Mexico.[6]

Nothing really significant occurred in tortilla history until, to meet the needs of big cities and the modern life style, the traditional process was mechanized in order to get a larger production of tortillas. In the 1940s and 50s, one of the first widespread uses of small scale gas engines and electric motors was to power wet grain grinders for making masa. A hand press or hand patting were still used to form the masa into tortillas, but by the 1960s small-scale tortilla-making machines could produce hot, steaming tortillas every two seconds.

Tortillas today

Today, personal and industrial tortilla making equipment has facilitated and expedited the tortilla-making process. Manually-operated wooden tortilla presses of the past have led to today’s industrial tortilla machinery which can produce thousands of tortillas per minute. Tortillas are now not only made from corn meal but from wheat flour and can also come in a multitude of flavors and varieties, all the way from homemade to store bought.

The natural nutritional benefits of corn and flour tortillas have helped tortillas rise in popularity with today's growing, health-conscious populations. The average brand and serving size of a corn tortilla is naturally low in fat (approximately 2.5 grams)and sodium and contains calcium, potassium, fiber, iron and B vitamins.

Tortillas are a staple food in Mexico and Central America and they have now gained popularity and market share in the United States and Canada as well. In the U.S., tortillas have now grown from an ``ethnic`` to a mainstream food. Tortillas have surpassed bagels and muffins, and have now become the number two packaged bread product sold in the U.S (behind sliced bread). It is estimated, by the Tortilla Industry Association (TIA), that in the U.S. alone, the tortilla industry (tortillas and their by-products – tortilla chips, tostada shells and taco shells) has become a $6 billion a year industry.

Tortillas are gaining popularity and market share in other countries as well. In order to better serve the growing tortilla market in Asia, Gruma, the world's largest producer of tortillas and corn-based flour, recently invested hundreds of millions of dollars opening two tortilla-making plants in China and Japan. Gruma also has tortilla plants in Mexico, Central America, Venezuela, Great Britain, Italy and the United States and has recently mentioned India and Africa as possible future plant locations. [7]

The flour tortilla has different origins than the traditional corn tortilla. However, the acceptance of the flour tortilla has increased so rapidly that now it is also known as part of the basic diet in northern Mexico. The flour tortilla has reached the top places of popularity in the United States food market. It is considered a hybrid that came out of Mexican traditions, Spanish ingredients and American eating necessities.

466 years of flour tortilla history in 2008

[citation needed]

- 1542 The Spaniards introduced the planting of wheat, and due to not finding the necessary ingredients to produce bread, the Spanish that were living in Sonora began to manufacture the zaruki, a cracked wheat mixed with water, which then became a flour tortilla.

- 1849 The flour tortilla appears in the northern states of Mexico and Texas in a dish made from flour tortillas filled with meat, then receives the name of burritos.

- 1947 Romana Acosta Bañuelos, from Jalisco, founds La Tapatia, in San Antonio, Texas, the first brand of flour tortillas in the United States. They were prepared by hand.

- 1972 Villamex registered the first patent for the machine to make the flour tortilla industrialized.

- 1983 Self-service shops made of specific facilities in the country are beginning to sell flour tortillas.

- 1983 The flour tortilla comes to Europe. They begin to be commercialized in England.

- 1984 President Miguel de la Madrid refused to support the production of the Mexican tortilla flour fortified with soybean as a food option.

- 1993 China begins to manufacture the Mexican flour tortilla.

Tortilla facts

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Due to the widespread popularity of Mexican and Southwestern cuisines, tortillas have become very popular in United States. Tortillas are more popular today in the U.S. than all other ethnic breads, including bagels, English muffins and pita bread.[8]

Tortillas have found their place in the American mainstream diet, where they now serve as substitutes for traditional meals such as hot dogs, lasagna, pitas, sandwiches and pizza. Tortillas can be used to hold a variety of fillings, used as food scoops, toasted and topped with salad, or served hot and plain.[9]

The Tortilla Industry Association (TIA) estimates the retail tortilla category is a $2.12 billion market in the U.S.

Sixty-two percent of food industry suppliers—both commercial and non-commercial—reported using tortillas in their operations.

As a solution to both the problems of handling food in microgravity and preventing bread crumbs from escaping into delicate instruments, wheat flour tortillas have been used on many NASA Shuttle missions since 1985, because they produce fewer crumbs than bread. [10]

Nutritional information

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Flour tortillas are a low-fat food and contain iron along with other B vitamins. They have about 115 calories with 2 to 3 grams of fat per serving. Corn tortillas are a naturally low-fat, low-sodium food and contain calcium, potassium and fiber. An average serving contains about 60 calories and only 1 gram of fat. Both kinds of tortillas are very low in cholesterol. They are also a good source of thiamin.

Tortillas in Mexico

Corn has been the most basic necessity in the kitchen for centuries. It is the most planted crop in the Mexican region. The country grows more than 42 different types of maize. In turn, each of these types has several varieties whose number is estimated at more than 3,000 by the International Center for the Improvement of Maize and Wheat (CIMMYT). The characteristics of each breed are varied according to soil conditions, the relative humidity of the environment, altitude, and even how it is grown. Although some of the earliest evidence of maize cultivation suggests that domestication took place in several places at the same time, it is likely that this process was linked to people who spoke oto-Manguean, although it has questioned the origin of Mexican corn.

Either way, corn is the basis of most Mexican cuisine, with some exception in the culinary traditions of northern Mexico, where wheat is taking the place of corn as the cereal base. The primary way in which corn is consumed in Mexico is the tortilla, but it is also a necessary input for the preparation of almost all genres of tamales, atoles and snacks. Furthermore, the corn used for tortillas can be ripe and dry, but it is also consumed fresh and mature (corn), or soft and fresh (xilote).[11]

Tortillas are consumed daily. Because they are very popular, most tortillas are made in factories with machinery, but they can also be homemade, especially in small towns. Tortilla factories are very common and can be found in any city, village, or settlement, and there are places where there are several in a single street. The tortilla working starts from early morning because for a lot of people lunch is their main meal of the day. In Mexico, lunch is eaten between 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. Some supermarkets or grocery stores also sell tortillas, and in such places they can be bought throughout the day.

The mainstay of the Mexican diet was, and still is, the tortilla, made from corn. Tortillas come in a lot of different flavors and colors according to the kind of corn that is used. Tortillas come with all the traditional foods of Mexico, though not with all the fillings that are used these days. Tortillas are used to prepare tacos, tortilla chips, tostadas, enchiladas, enfrijoladas, entomatadas, tortilla soup, quesadillas, chalupas, flautas, burritos, tacos dorados, Sincronizada, gorditas, tortilla soup, sopes, and chilaquiles. All of these dishes are usually prepared with corn, not flour, tortillas.

In northern Mexico and much of the United States, tortillas mean flour tortillas. They are the foundation of Mexican border cooking and a relatively recent import. Their popularity was driven by the low cost of inferior grades of flour provided to border markets and by their ability to keep and ship well.[12]

Tortillas are not just for eating. “Tortilla art” is when tortillas are used as a canvas. They are baked and then covered in acrylic before they are painted. The culture of Latino artists is represented by tortilla art so this is an important part of tortilla history. But this kind of art is not quite famous throughout all of Mexico.[13]

Tortillas in the United States

In the United States the tortilla is no longer seen as just ethnic bread. This is partially due to the increase of the Hispanic population. Many Americans use wheat flour tortillas in various dishes. They are commonly used in burritos, which originated in northern Mexico many years ago. As a testament to their popularity, the Tortilla Industry Association (TIA) estimates that Americans consumed approximately 85 billion tortillas in 2000 (not including tortilla chips).[14]

Tortilla chips - made from corn tortillas cut into wedges, then fried - first gained popularity in the 1940s in Los Angeles, California. These chips were mass-produced there but are still known as Mexican food. The ingredients in corn tortillas are corn, lime, and water. Fried chips add salt and vegetable oil.

Some alternative ways that tortillas can be eaten in the United States is in combinations such as beans and meat, apple cinnamon and sugar, or peanut butter and jelly. Flour tortillas are also used to make sandwiches, casseroles and stews, and hot dogs and there are plenty more uses too. It is not as common to have homemade tortillas in American homes as in Mexico. The General Mills brand Old El Paso has popularised the tortilla as a fast-food product that can be bought in supermarkets.

Many people from northern Mexico and the native Mexicans in the southwestern United States eat tortillas as a food staple. Many restaurants use flour tortillas in a variety of non-Mexican and Mexican recipes. Nearly every grocery store has tortillas and people can also make homemade tortillas and experiment with the ingredients and fillings.[15]

See also

Mexico portal North America portal Wikimedia Commons has media related to: tortillas Wikibooks Cookbook has a recipe/module on Tortilla Look up tortilla in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. Tortilla de patatas Yufka Lavash Mexican cuisine Blintz Crêpe Pancake Pita Roti Low-carb tortilla


^ Growing Corn in Mexico, Pan-American Adventure: Tepotzotlán, Mexico, by Don Lotter, August 3, 2004. ^ Rubios, Fresh Mexican Grill. ^ The real taste of Mexico, by Jesse Fanciulli, Greeley Tribune, November 24, 2002. ^ Hernam Cortes: From Second Letter to Charles V, 1520, From: Oliver J. Thatcher, ed., The Library of Original Sources (Milwaukee: University Research Extension Co., 1907), Vol. V: 9th to 16th Centuries, pp. 317-326. ^ Bernardino de Sahagún, by James Mooney, Transcribed by Joseph E. O'Connor, The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XIII. ^ General History of the Things of New Spain (Historia general de las cosas de Nueva Espana), by the Franciscan friar Bernardino de Sahagun (1450-1590) ^ GRUMA ONLINE ^ TIA Press Release The Tortilla Industry Trails White Bread Sales by Two Percent; Far Surpasses Wheat Bread Product Sales ^ Wrap It Up: A Guide to Mexican Street Tacos, by Karen Hursh Graber, Mexico Connect. ^ Food for Space Flight ^ Tacos, Enchiladas and Refried Beans: The Invention of Mexican-American Cookery, by Andrew F. Smith, Presented at the at Oregon State University, 1999. ^ California Mexican-Spanish Cook Book; Selected Mexican and Spanish Recipes, by Bertha Haffner-Ginger, Citizen Print Shop, Los Angeles, 1914. ^ Tackling the taco: A guide to the art of taco eating, by Sophie Avernin, Vuelo Mexicana. ^ TIA news first quarter 2001 ^ Ramona's Spanish-Mexican Cookery; The First Complete and Authentic Spanish-Mexican Cook Book in English, by Pauline Wiley-Kleemann, Editor, West Coast Publishing Co., Los Angeles, 1929. v â€¢ d â€¢ e Flatbreads Asia

Barbari breadʉۢ Bazlamaʉۢ Bhakriʉۢ Bhaturaʉۢ Bindaeddeokʉۢ Bingʉۢ Bolanee (Stuffed flatbread)ʉۢ Chapatiʉۢ dosaiʉۢ Roast paanʉۢ G̦zlemeʉۢ Green onion pancakeʉۢ Khanom buangʉۢ Laobingʉۢ Luchiʉۢ Maloogaʉۢ Markookʉۢ Matzoʉۢ Naanʉۢ Papadumʉۢ Parathaʉۢ Pesarattuʉۢ Pideʉۢ Puriʉۢ Rotiʉۢ Roti canaiʉۢ Sanchuisandaʉۢ Sangakʉۢ Taftoon Breadʉۢ Yufka


Crêpe â€¢ Crisp bread â€¢ Flammkuchen â€¢ Flatbrød â€¢ Flatkaka â€¢ Focaccia â€¢ Hoggan â€¢ Lavash â€¢ Lefse â€¢ OpÅ‚atek â€¢ Pancake â€¢ Pane carasau â€¢ Piadina â€¢ Pita â€¢ PodpÅ‚omyk â€¢ Rieska â€¢ Sacramental bread â€¢ Tunnbröd


Aish Mehahraʉۢ Harshaʉۢ Injeraʉۢ Laxooxʉۢ Mandeziʉۢ Ngome


Arepaʉۢ Bammyʉۢ Casabeʉۢ Cassava breadʉۢ Tortillaʉۢ Tortilla de Rescoldo