How long does it take to make a new kind of corn? For me it's taken about 6 or 7 years just to get started. The first two or three years were focused on sweet corn and I accumulated hundreds of varieties, modern hybrids and old heirlooms, plus Joseph Lofthouse's AD. Project went OK, in creating an extremely diverse landrace before I dropped it when I figured out that for me sweet corn is a waste of time. It's a summer time treat, not food IMO and around here everybody and their dog sells it for prices I couldn't touch as a producer. So to heck with sweet corn, I’ll just let the woman buy at the roadside like she does anyway. I did achieve a massively diverse seed cash and I kept it in case I want to mix it in to something later, knowing I'd have to select the shrunken kernels back out in future seasons.
So, new idea, Flour corn. I blew another couple of seasons and some more $$ building up a landrace of it. Lots of shorter season western strains including Painted Mountain and Carol Deppe's "manna" family. Some others in there too like the more eastern Cherokee White Flour, Hickory King and some others. The eastern ones are all way too long season for my tastes. Also threw in a great grex I got from a friend who had developed it from shorter season mix of eastern strains. Well, wouldn't ya know, flour corn is a waste of time for me too, although not as bad as sweet. It's awful prone to mold and the like in my climate especially if I get it in too late and maturity falls in line with the arrival of the fall earworms. The worms are bad enough on their own but even if they just chew on it a little bit the rest molds, yuck! Still again I ended p with another diverse seed stash.
Now and although it remains to be seen in my own experience, I came to the conclusion for what I want, a flint corn is probably preferable.
A flint, or mostly flint corn, from what I can gather has greatest potential to be used like I want and that is to make a gritty, crumbly cornbread that I can slather with butter and eat with my ham and beans, or add honey on top of the butter and call it breakfast. Anyway I won't go on any more about what is best for what use because, well, fact is I don't have enough experience to know what I'm talking about on that topic.
But good or bad my flint corn project is now cut in stone and got underway three years ago. Oddly with a non flint variety called Zapalote Chico. It is an old Mexican landrace and although is all wrong for most of my goals it has one extremely interesting property. It makes a compound called maysin in its silks and fall ear worms don’t like that compound at all. I have confirmed that along with an abundance of extremely tight husks Zapalote Chico is bullet proof against the worms and about any other of the various bugs that commonly attack my corn, opening it up to the molds. I have even had a example where a squirrel gave up in tearing through the husks, poor thing it was almost there, stopping just a couple husks short of the prize.
So the ZC anti worm properties is critical but now I got to turn it into flint. My foundation for that is crossing it to flint corns of course. I want my corn to also be pretty so I can maybe sell it as an ornamental as well as feed it to critters and eat it myself. I don’t want it all mixed up though like what is commonly known as Indian corn. I want something like Carol Deppe’s Cascade Ruby Gold. Where each ear is a single solid color but the ears come in a variety of colors. I found another flint corn called Bronze Beauty that has that same trait. It is an old eastern variety.
I mixed those three all up last year, detasseling hand pollinating to make the initial hybrids in both directions. The result of that is starting to tassel right now and looking pretty good.
The different colors on different ears, a lot of you might already know comes from color in the pericarp. That’s the outer layer on the seed kernel. It is apparently quite variable but it is part of the mother plant so it is the same on all kernels of an individual ear.
Mixed up ears have color in the alerone. That’s a thin layer under the pericarp and it’s genetic from both parents from what I understand so it gets all mixed up. In my project I’m trying very hard to not let aleurone color in my corn from the start and select it out if and when it does show up.
The starchy part of the kernel called the endosperm is either soft like in flour corn or hard in flint corn. It also varies but for the most part is just yellow or white. I’m not worried right now on purity in that regard because white is my preference there and white is recessive. A mix on a single ear, assuming there is no aleurone color will theoretically just show up visually by making the uniform pericarp appear to have two shades. Since white is recessive all I have to do is plant only the lighter of the two shades and I don’t have to cull entire ears like I may have to do if any aleurone color shows up.
So, right now some of last year’s seed is growing in a semi isolated patch planted later to avoid crossing with another patch. The other patch is kernels selected from the sweet and flour grexes from prior years along with some more of the new flint ZC/flint seeds.
I didn’t want to just discard all that work and genetic diversity from those other projects. So, this mixed patch is an effort to bring some other traits I liked from them into the new flint project. Introducing alerone color is my biggest concern and although I carefully selected just seed that appears not to have it, I suspect it will show up. Since I don’t really know how aleurone color is inherited I’ll keep these two divisions of the project separate for the foreseeable future.
Some of the other corns in those old mixes along with the Lofthouse AD are Lofhouse Harmony Grain Corn. I found some nice flinty seeds in Harmony with cool star pattern pericarp and made sure it was included. Also a touch of wild corn Zea diploperennis crossed both with flora and sweet mixes. The Z dip is fun stuff, growing lots of tillers and making lots and lots of ears over a period instead of maturing all at once. Aunt Mary’s is a sweet corn of note, growing wonderfully in my garden with big ears of 8 to 12 rows and big kernels. A green kernel western flour corn whose name escapes me at the moment is also notable for its drought tolerance; I had it grow nicely to maturity one time with scarcely a drop of water in the last 60 days or so although secondary ears aborted.
There are hundreds of varieties in those old mixes altogether including modern sweet hybrids kept around for their reported disease tolerances, corns with strong stalks I think originating from the Iowa Stiff Stalk lines, corns with lots of strong prop roots.
In the end I hope to have my varied pericarp flint corn, maturing in around 100 days to dry down. Drought tolerant, disease tolerant and worm proof. I can plant it early and have it mature weeks before the competition for fall decorations. Or if conditions dictate I can plant late without losing it to worms and mold. I can feed it to my critters and most of all I can have my real corn bread, corn chips or whatever else without adding any wheat flour. Or at least that’s the plan.
Nothing ruins a neighborhood like paved roads and water lines.
And will you succeed? Yes you will indeed! (98 and 3/4 % guaranteed) - Seuss. tiny ad:
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