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Growing My Way to Freedom #44: Hopi Blue Dent Corn

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Blog entry by Radicalfarmergal posted 01-29-2014 05:15 PM 2124 reads 0 times favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 43: Potatoes Part 44 of Growing My Way to Freedom series no next part

In 2013, I grew Hopi Blue Dent corn. I ordered one package from a small company in Maine, Pinetree Seeds. I planted the corn in the garden area at the top of sunny southern slope, in the piece of land where my sons had grown potatoes last year. At the end of the season, we had covered the ground in cardboard and a thick layer of goat hay bedding mulch. Given the thick covering we had created, I thought that starting them indoors and transplanting them outside would be a good idea. The only thing is that the corn seeds had other ideas. My germination was relatively low (only about 50%) and I ended up with about thirty sturdy plants. I think when I am growing heirloom Indian selected corn, perhaps direct seeding into the garden is a better option. As I often hear myself saying, “Next year…..”

The transplants thrived and grew. By July 4th, they were as tall as me and by the end of the summer, the plants were ten feet tall. I didn’t irrigate or fertilize, other than the initial thick mulch coating we used the prior fall to cover and protect the soil. Scarlet Runner Beans were planted near the growing corn to twine up and around the stalks. Cucumber plants were tucked in between the corn to shade the ground. Borage plants framed the ends of the bed to attract pollinators. Tomatoes were tucked around the edges because I am always looking for space to put extra tomato plants.

At the end of the season, we harvested about 40 healthy ears and tucked them away in the attic of our barn to dry. We gave underdeveloped or malformed ears to the chickens as a treat. Once in the barn, we basically just forgot about the corn for several months while life kept us busy. It has been a bitterly cold winter so we have been doing mostly indoor activities and this week I remembered the stored corn. We took it down from the barn, removed the kernels and weighed them. From a planting of only 60 or 70 seeds, we harvested eleven pounds of corn!

I can preserve this corn for several years (if we don’t eat it first) by drying it a bit more in a food dehydrator. It is important to keep the temperature low, 95 degrees Fahrenheit, so that the seeds are not damaged in the process. To tell if the corn is dry enough to store, hit a kernel with a hammer. If it mushes, it isn’t dry enough. If it shatters, you are ready to store it in an air-tight environment. I learned how to test when the corn is done in a book by Carol Deppe: The Resilient Gardener: Food Production and Self-Reliance in Uncertain Times. I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in seriously growing more of their own food.

Naturally we had to try out how it tastes and ground up several ears worth of corn in my grain mill. The result was a light blue/gray cornmeal. I made cornmeal blueberry muffins using the blueberries we picked and froze this summer, eggs from our chickens and local maple syrup that we get from a neighbor who makes his own syrup. What a delicious treat for a cold winter day!

i tried to show the steps: a beautiful blue-black ear of corn, the soft gray cornmeal and the finished muffin.

So what about 2014 and the lessons I learned?

- Although the Hopi Blue corn was very successful, I am going to try another type of Indian corn that is more suited to my climate and geography. I ordered Abenaki Calais Flint Corn from Fedco Seeds in Maine and I am planting it in the garden area where I grew potatoes last year (2013)….

- Scarlet Runner Beans do well on the edges of the corn patch but not in the interior because they didn’t get enough sun. This year, I will plant the runner beans only along the exterior because I enjoy the way the red flowers appear against the green corn leaves.

- I learned that corn suffers from “inbreeding depression” which means that when the population of fellow breeders during pollination is too small, the vitality of future generation suffers. Future generations of plants may demonstrate slower growth, less vigor, reduced disease resistance and less successful fruit production. We had been growing popcorn for several years and had noticed that both the ears and kernels were becoming progressively smaller and less desirable. Now I understand why. In her book, Carol Deppe recommends a minimum of 100 corn plants to avoid inbreeding depression. If I cannot grow at least close to 100 plants, I won’t bother saving seed.

- Given the amount of space required for 100 corn plants, I probably won’t grow corn every year. Perhaps I can grow a large crop every other year and store it successfully instead.

Thanks for reading. Anyone have any corn growing stories to share?

-- "...I have nothing against authorities as such; I am only in favor of putting a question mark after just about everything they say." Ruth Stout



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Radicalfarmergal

4308 posts in 1981 days
hardiness zone 5b

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9 comments so far

View daltxguy's profile

daltxguy

882 posts in 1816 days
hardiness zone 4a

posted 01-29-2014 06:36 PM

You are an inspiration, Ms RFG!

So, I’ve made the decision that this year I am giving up gardening and moving in with you guys! I’m destined for inbreeding depression with my 6 corn plants. producing 8 ears, 4 of which I gave to my mom, 2 of which I ate and 2 of which I saved for seed.

If you adopt 10 more like me, and you grow an additional 40 plants then you can start your own breeding program. Some of us might even have enough meat on us to make sausages. and render some frying grease. In the meantime, I come with skills and could produce maple syrup for you, so that one day I could enjoy a blue corn muffin with you.

-- Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty. The obedient must be slaves. - Thoreau

View MsDebbieP's profile

MsDebbieP

14688 posts in 2718 days
hardiness zone 5b

posted 01-30-2014 02:41 AM

haha re: daltxguy!!

impressive, Rad. ... I don’t have any stories to share.
Thoroughly enjoyed your story and the tips you have shared.

-- - Debbie, SW Ontario Canada (USDA Hardiness Zone: 5a)

View Radicalfarmergal's profile

Radicalfarmergal

4308 posts in 1981 days
hardiness zone 5b

posted 01-30-2014 05:27 AM

Thanks for your comments, Daltxguy and MsDebbie. I can only imagine how much we could achieve if you did move in with us! With all your skills and enthusiasm, we would have my dream greenhouse finished in a week or two! Were the six ears that you and your Mom ate delicious? Just because you aren’t growing enough to save seed doesn’t mean you can’t grow delicious corn. Maybe your garden will keep expanding and you will quickly find that you have enough room to grow corn to eat and sorghum for broom making as well.

My next project will be to make tortillas with the ground corn. I have never successfully made tortillas so please wish me luck!

-- "...I have nothing against authorities as such; I am only in favor of putting a question mark after just about everything they say." Ruth Stout

View daltxguy's profile

daltxguy

882 posts in 1816 days
hardiness zone 4a

posted 01-30-2014 08:06 AM

They were indeed delicious. Your standard “peaches and cream” variety, store bought seeds (99c/packet – maybe even 3 packs for $1?). The stalks barely reached shoulder height but I think this had to do with the soil, which is being recovered from 50 years of grass crop, mostly on thin forest soil over deep sandy soils (alluvial flood plains with forest cover following glaciation).

The soils are being amended using a lazy man’s way of hugelkultur ( dump brush trimmings/wood chips/bark on the ground, followed by a layer of compost). I have more seeds this year for corn and broom corn sorghum.

Mainly, though, in this climate, I think perennials need to form the backbone of a good garden. I hope to have a lot more rhubarb, asparagus (wild asparagus noted along the roadways near my house too!), thimbleberries, blackberries, raspberry, hazelnut, wild cherry, mint, chives while also foraging dandelion, plantain, sorrel and lamb’s quarters. More perennials to be added this year.

-- Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty. The obedient must be slaves. - Thoreau

View Radicalfarmergal's profile

Radicalfarmergal

4308 posts in 1981 days
hardiness zone 5b

posted 01-31-2014 08:16 AM

Daltxguy, gardening with perennials sounds like a good plan to me. : ) I would add Lovage to your list of perennial vegetables. It is very hardy and it tastes good when I add it to soups and stews in place of celery. Also, you can grow perennial onions. If you can find a space for nettles, (even though it might sound unpalatable), our family really appreciates young nettles in the spring. They can be harvested even before the asparagus! Let me know if you need seeds and I can collect some for you this summer. Although we grow both Sea Kale and Good King Henry, neither is very popular in my family. I noticed that you mention Sorrel; this has also become a family favorite, especially mixed into salads, garnishing a tuna sandwich or served with steamed chicken or fish. If you are looking for a good source of seeds or plants, I have had good experiences with Richter Herbs, located in Ontario. Have fun planning while you are waiting for the snow to melt and the ground to thaw….

-- "...I have nothing against authorities as such; I am only in favor of putting a question mark after just about everything they say." Ruth Stout

View daltxguy's profile

daltxguy

882 posts in 1816 days
hardiness zone 4a

posted 02-01-2014 08:12 AM

Thanks for the ideas RFG. I’ll look at sourcing some of those things locally first. I’m connecting to the food growers in the region and they run some seed exchanges every year. All of the things which I distinguished as ‘foraging’ foods are because those things already grow in my yard without having been planted, or they grow nearby, which has been my main source for seeds or plants. The sorrel grows wild in my yard if left to its own. Thanks for the tip on Richter’s. I’ll look to them in case it is difficult to find otherwise.

I also want to get in some milkweed. These have been habitually eliminated from the landscape but are the food source for monarch butterflies and the seed pods insides are edible when young, tasting almost like cucumber. I have an area set aside in my yard for wildflowers to which I keep adding more and more things. I add anything which is edible, herbal, medicinal, attracter of beneficial insects, etc.

-- Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty. The obedient must be slaves. - Thoreau

View Radicalfarmergal's profile

Radicalfarmergal

4308 posts in 1981 days
hardiness zone 5b

posted 02-02-2014 04:06 AM

I have patches of common milkweed growing here for the butterflies, but I never realized the immature pods, new shoots and blooms are edible if cooked in water and the water is discarded afterwards! I am not sure if I can find the shoots because the milkweed grows in the wild meadow part of our yard, but I definitely recognize the plants by the time it flowers and creates seed pods. I am pretty sure that it is the common milkweed, Asclepias syriacqa, but I will verify the plant before we try it. I learn from you all the time, Daltxguy; thank you!

-- "...I have nothing against authorities as such; I am only in favor of putting a question mark after just about everything they say." Ruth Stout

View Greenthumb's profile

Greenthumb

2290 posts in 2538 days

posted 02-02-2014 05:15 PM

a monarchs only defence mechanism, is its ability to enjoy eating and being immune to the noxious taste of milkweed, to which few other specie enjoy the taste of, thus the survival of the monarch butterfly.

I always keep a few acres of the unruly milkweed, if for nothing else, then to grab the odd grub that grows within, to hook on line, where I catch the odd trout for dinner : )

-- just one more rock, and the garden is done ; )

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Radicalfarmergal

4308 posts in 1981 days
hardiness zone 5b

posted 02-06-2014 04:42 AM

Mmmm, trout! There are many reasons to plant and protect the milkweed we have growing. : )

-- "...I have nothing against authorities as such; I am only in favor of putting a question mark after just about everything they say." Ruth Stout

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