Thursday, July 5, 2012

Let's talk corn

It's a well known fact in my family that I am not a corn lover. I am actually a "if-I-put-corn-in-my-mouth-I'm-gonna-throw-up" kind of person. There's just something about the squirting juices when you bite down on a kernel.....bleck. I have very early memories of spit up on my dinner plate and all the brothers and sisters gasping at the site of half chewed corn swimming next to my mashed potatoes.

OK. Enough of the graphic details. I don't like corn.

But all of our kids and my beloved LOVE corn. So corn has a very important place in our family's home food production. There are many ways to eat corn other than fresh: polenta, parched corn and corn meal (for bread and johnny cakes....). Plus, we are trying to produce some of our animal's winter food. Even here in Northwest Montana, we can grow corn, though it takes special short season varieties.

So in anticipation of growing corn that we can serve to our animals and our sweet kids, I picked out a couple of different types as a kind of experiment for our garden this year. Since the garden spot was expanded quite a bit, I have a small area for "experimental" crops.

The first experimental corn I planted was the one noted below: Sapai Red Parch corn from Seeds of Change. Of all the "other" ways corn can be eaten, parched is the only way I have not tried. The corn is allowed to completely dry on the stalk in the fall, then the kernels shucked off the cob. The kernels are then roasted in a dry cast iron skillet until fragrant. They are supposed to taste great....better than pop corn (although I almost can't believe that! I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE pop corn!). So we'll see. The little corn plants are not very impressive at this point, barely 5 inches tall (pictures to follow later today when I venture out into the garden). However, we have had a really cool, wet spring.....again. So I should just be happy that the little cornlings had the perseverance to germinate at all.

I have tried growing pop corn here several times with terrible in the corn either didn't grow well enough to produce a cob or didn't even sprout. So parching corn might be a nice substitute.

We also planted Mandan Red which is a corn flour. Its a medium- early corn that grows short bushy plants with 6 inch ears. The best part is that it will grow fairly fast and hopefully offer a flour that will be useful on our homestead. Supposedly the Supai Red can be milled as a flour, too but the kernels are harder to grind than the Mandan. Plus, the Mandan is supposed to have a sweet flavor to the four. We'll see.

I purchased a flint seed, Cascade Ruby-Gold Flint corn, which was developed by breeder Carol Deppe and was bred for her cool, wet springs. She calls it "the ultimate survival crop". It's actually doing pretty well! The plantlings are up about 6-7 inches and coming on strong. It's going to be fun to see how it progresses through the year. This is touted to be a very early productive flint corn "superb for cornbread, johnny cakes and polenta. Does well even in downright cold summers." Again....we'll see.

(A short season sweet corn from Burpee was planted along with all the others, but never made an appearance......just not tough enough for our Montana spring, I guess. So I tilled the spot under and put out some broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower starts I had left over for just this reason.)

I also saved seed from my corn patch last year: Painted Mountain. It's a corn specifically bred by Dave Christensen in the mountains of Montana. The website states this: "Painted Mountain grows fast even in cold climates where other corns struggle to stay alive in early spring. It also pollinates and fills out ears during the searing heat of the dry Montana summer. It takes 90 days to mature as dry grain in my cold mountain climate, about 2-4 weeks ahead of other "90 day" corn. Painted Mountain will grow food where many varieties will fail. Farmers find it a very efficient food source if grazed by livestock right off the field. The lack of woodiness in the stalks and soft starch of the grain give it a higher digestibility to animals than other corns.  The highly nutritious grain promises to have many uses for humans and farm animals."

I found that Painted Mountain grew and produced actual corn during one of the worst gardening seasons I had ever experienced here on our farm several years ago. So even though it's considered an ornamental corn, I'm going to try and use it this year for grinding and parching. The chickens fight for the kernels so even if it doesn't taste great, it seems to be a dependable food source for the animals. So if the flavor isn't great, for the fact I can feed it to my animals, Painted Mountain has a spot in our garden.

All in all, this corn season will be interesting and hopefully very fruitful. I really can't wait for the results. I'm very concerned about our nations food supply/ production and everything I can do now to ensure our own ability to produce real food during uncertain times will help me sleep better at night.

No comments:

Post a Comment