As I was taking stock of what we have here in the urban homestead’s pantry for our next co-op order,  I remembered a recent comment from a friend that got me thinking. Been doing a lot of that lately, especially when it comes to our food staples that we don’t grow.

Now, I am all for choices but sometimes I think Ma Ingalls had it, well, “easier.” Ok, before ya’ll go off on me, I am talking about  easier as consumer, that is.   There was the General Store and that’s all there was to it. No aisles on top of aisles on top of aisles of  who knows how many products shipped in from all over the world. These days we are bombarded with so many brands, so many choices. Living the simple life, is, well, not exactly simple!

So, here’s the deal. We purchased a case of Organic Non GMO corn starch from the co-op which we use for a variety of things from baking to beauty. Now that strawberries are in season, Jordanne’s been whipping up trays of these tasty bars and ,to thicken the bright berry sauce that tops a shortbread like bottom, we use the organic, non gmo corn starch.

I am well aware that there are other natural thickening agents. Our friend recently suggested (hence this post topic) potato starch or tapioca. Of course, her suggestion got me thinking which thicker agent should we buy? Which starch is more sustainable, local?

Though corn has gotten a bad rap (ala the film King Corn) my reasoning for buying a corn product is that we live in California and corn is much more of a “local/native” crop than  potatoes or tapioca.

Care to weigh in on my reasoning? Should I keep corn starch as a staple in homestead pantry or not. Should it stay or should it go?

I have to place our co-op order by next week so ya’ll be so kind as to speak up.


  1. Joe says:

    We have a daughter with a corn allergy and we use Arrowroot.

    • Anais says:

      @Joe: Thanks for starting the ball rolling! That’s certainly is a possible candidate!

  2. Dog Island Farm says:

    We grow corn and potatoes so I’m not sure I could make a choice. However, here in NorCal potatoes are local, as is corn. Maybe go to your local farmers market and see who is selling potatoes and corn and where there farm is located to get an idea of what really is local to you.

  3. Kj says:

    We also use arrowroot – it seems to not “clump up” so much for me and I have found it to be less expensive than organic corn starch (however, since we order bulk 1-2x a year, I have not had to purchase any for quite some time so I am not sure of the prices any more.)

  4. LadySnow says:

    I actually have corn, potato, tapioca, and arrowroot starch in my pantry. My husband eats gluten free so I have many different flours and such in my pantry. Just remember that tapioca starch and tapioca flour are the SAME thing. Potato starch and Potato flour are DIFFERENT. Just a FYI. 😉 (I prefer potato starch)

  5. PT says:

    I would think it would be more important where the companies that manufacture the cornstarch or other items are and where they buy their products from. It doesn’t really matter if corn grows in your area, if the product is made across the country or if they ship their corn from around the world.

  6. Chiot's Run says:

    I use organic corn, arrowroot and yucca starches in cooking, but not very frequently. I struggled with this issue a while ago, searching for an alternative to purchase pectin when making jams/jellies. I started using local organic gleaned crabapples and transparent apples. They work wonderfully and now I know where 100% of my ingredients in my jam come from.

    I agree with the other poster about searching out companies that use sustainable practices in producing their products. I try to buy from companies I know are responsible and I try very hard to not purchase from huge mega corporations.

    • Anais says:

      @Chiot’s Run: Good tip about the pectin. Wish I had a bit more apples here growing on the urban homestead to experiment. Could try the farmer’s market for some local apples though!

      • Lidia Seebeck says:

        @Anais, I may have ah, forgotten to thin much of my apple tree this spring. So it appears that I have an insane number of very small apples that might be good to play with, if you’re willing? I’m over in Riverside but can travel.

        • Anais says:

          @Lidia Seebeck: Very kind of you to offer those apples! I am willing to play with them but would hate to have you travel all that way. Our friend, Farmer Sergio, is up here quite often. He lives in Corona so perhaps you could give them to him the next time he comes and visits. Let me know if that’s what you would like to do.

  7. Bob says:

    I think it is a more difficult decision based on do like Corn Whiskey or Vodka .

    OK ,just a very little levity for the comment section 🙂

    • Anais says:

      @Bob: Very funny. Thanks for the humor.

  8. Tim says:

    I don’t have much to add other than to echo PT’s comment. As far as which is more sustainable however, I’d have to go with potatoes for the simple fact that I believe that potatoes have a higher yield per acre, have a higher starch content and are less demanding of the soil in regard to nutrients. If I remember correctly, corn is a pretty heavy feeder.

    • Anais says:

      @Tim: Good point about the higher yield per acre.

  9. Jane says:

    I think about these things too. I think you have to go with a good company -non gmo, organic, ethical practices, even if not local. I look at it this way, I love oranges. Obviously, they do not grow anywhere remotely close to Pennsylvania. But if I never buy them again, and others in non-orange areas stop buying them, won’t the poor organic farmer who gives his everything to grow them, go out of business also. Some farmers just couldn’t make it if everyone just buys local. I was recently in Florida and talked to some farmers who say they are getting put out of business because oranges are brought in from other countries cheaper than they can produce them.So I always buy USA made. From that point I try to buy non-gmo, organic. I rarely go to the grocery store and grow about 75% of our food year round so I agree it is an argument either way. As a farmer I try to support other farmers even if it is in another state.

  10. Ben says:

    Any chance we can get a recipe for the strawberry bars? They looked real good in the photos the other day.

    • Anais says:

      @Ben: We are working on making recipes available…. just one of the many things on the “to do list” Thanks for your patience. 😉

  11. Mary says:

    I think going the 100 mile way is a good way. But we personally can’t use corn b/c of my son’s allergies so we use arrowroot startch.

  12. Laurie says:

    Potato starch vs. corn starch: It depends on your application, if you are using potato starch to thicken hot liquids, potato starch loses its ability to retain that thickening ability. Potato starch is great for making latkes or potato pancakes that you fry because it keeps the potatoes from getting too soggy. I don’t know much about arrowroot or tapioca but have heard arrowroot works as well as corn starch for thickening hot liquids.

  13. Anais says:

    Thanks for everyone’s input. Can’t hurt to try experimenting!

  14. Lily says:

    I think that it has less to do with what can or does grow in our area than where the product(s) in question is actually grown and processed. Also, I find that all the starches mentioned have varying textures in the final product. That is to say, the final gel of each is not identical to the others, nor are the heat stability, reaction to acids, or cold tolerance the same amongst all of them. Because of that I keep several types of thickner on hand. I really don’t go through my thickeners that quickly and I am not aware of any local producers, so I usually make sure I get something organic from a company I like and trust when I need to restock.

    • Anais says:

      @Lily: Thanks for your feedback. We don’t go thru thickeners much either. A box from the co-op lasts us about 1/2 year or more. Some folks on our FB page were commenting that one should continue to support the non GMO corn brand. I do want to try experimenting since Justin is now growing Arrowroot!

  15. Tricia says:

    Anais, I haven’t tried arrowroot but it might be a good choice because lately I have been wondering how long non-gmo corn can stay that way. How can we stop the frankenstein corn from cross polinating the heirloom corn when the spores can travel so far through the air. Spores have even been found in Antartica. What do you think? Ask your Dad for me please.

    • Anais says:

      @Tricia: Good question, that’s certainly a big problem. You are right about the pollen – don’t know where and which way the winds have blown from. Arrowroot may seem to be a better choice – Monsanto hasn’t got their hands on that plant yet!

  16. CE says:

    I also use fruits that are naturally high in pectin to set my jams and jellys. Grated apples work well but when mixing into other fruits I prefer to blend them a bit closer to a raw puree. Slightly under ripe apples or black or blue berrys mixed into the pot add more pectin than fully ripe fruit. They also add a bit of zing so you can omit the lemon juice but try a bit of vanilla. Look at “Joy Of Cooking” for more info on pectin amounts in fruits and using those in place of store bought pectin. I like the finished product better myself and if you gauge it wrong…you have a lovely sauce.

    • Anais says:

      @CE: Great information, thanks for sharing your hands on know how. Happy homesteading!

  17. brian says:


    have you tried making your own? i´ve done it with potatoes and I know you can do it with sweet potatoes…and I suppose easy enough with corn. Basically you just need to blend the potato in water, filter through cheesecloth, let the cloudy starch suspension settle out in the fridge and then dry the starch off. I´ve only used the starch I´ve produced as a thickener. There will be tutorials with more detail on this on the web.

    Worth a try ?
    Good luck and thanks for a great blog,

    • Anais says:

      @brian: I hope to one day. Right now my plate is, well, FULL of other projects. I did find out that Justin is growing Arrowroot in the fish pond so perhaps that could be my first project. Thanks for the tip and thanks for the positive comments. Glad you stopped by, hope you stay awhile.

  18. Lindie says:

    Have you tried arrowroot powder/flour? I just bought some to try in a bread recipe. I know it is not local but I like experimenting.

  19. Vicki Schoenwald says:

    I generally use corn starch,being located in Nebraska, I am limited to what I have available to me, and I have also used Agar-Agar, it is a sea vegetable pectin alternative in my jellies and jams and other fruit items. I get it from the health food store when I stock up in the fall, every year, and you can adjust your sugar level or no sugar for diets.

  20. Lori says:

    I was in the hospital 3 days due to swollen esophagus from eating GM corn products (impregnated at the DNA level with the bacterium Bt, which causes gastric swelling and bleeding in sensitive people and critters). I have been saddened to learn that since honey bees can fly 6 miles, and since organic certification only requires separation by a much shorter distance, there can be no guarantee that organic corn seeds remain non-GMO in subsequent plantings.

    This is why people are suddenly discovering that corn meal makes a great pesticide in the garden.

    With the vast majority of corn being GMO, only a very isolated farm could be assured of producing a truly organic crop. I am saddened by this, because corn is such a Native symbol and historic staple in America. What will happen to populations heavily dependent upon it in their diets? At least it’s still good for fuel.

    • Anais says:

      @Lori: Sorry to hear about your experience. That’s scary! Unfortunately, like you said due to pollen issues this poses a huge risk of contamination to organic growers.

  21. Kathleen says:

    so heres a thought, you can make potato and corn startch at home, so grow potatos and grow corn, and you can have both!

  22. Green Stars Project says:

    I’m a little late to this discussion, but potatoes have lower water and fertilizer needs than corn (and can also produce comparable yields without the need for genetic modification or Glyphosate). When grown organically, corn is not a bad choice, but I’d say potato is a better choice in general.

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