Corn (Zea mays)
Gift from the gods
Corn is arguably the most important grain crop today and forms the basis of many diets around the world. High fructose corn syrup is in just about all foods of a westerner’s diet and most animals are primarily ‘finished’ if not completely raised on corn. But before modern processed foods indigenous cultures of the Americas often soaked corn in an alkali solution prior to consumption. This process of nixtamalization converts bound niacin to free niacin, making it available for absorption, reducing the amount of protein but improving the balance of amino acids, increasing calcium, iron, copper and zinc. Also the process can reduce mycotoxins present in the grain.
Although much of the corn grown in the United States is the standard yellow dent (>85% transgenic) and fed to animals, there remains quite a diversity of types that range in color, form and function. Humans can eat more than just sweet corn. Corn is categorized into five general groups: flour corn, popcorn, dent corn, flint corn, and sweet corn. Popcorn is probably the oldest type, while sweet corn is probably the most recent to be introduced. Sweet corns have different flavor profiles depending on how the starch biosynthesis pathway has been manipulated. Modern super-sweet cultivars can be desirable or undesirable depending on the taster. We offer two types: a painted mountain sweet corn and a bulk flour corn. Unlike field corn the flour corn is quite sweet up until the grains are mature.
Remember that sweet corn and field corn do cross. This is why sweet corn planted near field corn will often loose its sweetness and become more like the field corn due to pollen transfer. Corn is outcrossing and wind-pollinated making isolation distances difficult to maintain. Two miles is often a recommended buffer. Pollen is produced by the tassel, located at the top of the stalk. The silks emerge from the ears and facilitate fertilization of the kernels. When growing either type try to plant the whole 100 plants in a block. Remove off-types through the season and bulk the seed from the remaining plants to reduce any inbreeding depression.
Harvest once dry and store dry. The kernels can be left adhered to the cob or threshed once completely dried. Bulk seed in a paper bag or plastic pale and use a portion for next years crop, while the rest can be ground up for corn bread or processed ‘nixtamalized’ for some of the tastiest tortillas you will ever eat.