|Jim husks blue corn.|
Our first corn crop was in the summer of 2015. We'd been given a small, shriveled ear at a seed-swap. The corn was already two years old and, since corn seed degrades faster than most, we weren't sure how viable it would be. In this case we pre-sprouted it and only planted seeds that germinated. Our young friend Serenity patiently and diligently planted the corn in cultivated soil -- 5" apart and 1" down, gently covering the seeds with soil as she went.
|Covered row cloth protects young crops from mild frosts and animals that might eat the tender, new plants. Remove once plants are pushing up on bottom of cloth. (Pic credit)|
|Compost tea is steeped in large batches and then poured generously on crops to fertilize them.|
|The orange string (around bed to left of hose) is used to mark newly planted soil so no one walks on it by accident.|
|Shucking corn and shelling beans are a favorite autumn activity at the Sharing Gardens.|
|Hooker's Blue corn, though not very tall at full height (typically 4 to 4 and 1/2 feet) yields large harvests -- one to two 4"-6" ears per stalk. Here, students are mulching an adjacent bed with wheat straw.|
|In this picture, corn has finished ripening, and is partially drying on the stalk. Christie harvests the ears to be husked and further dried in our greenhouse.|
|Christie and Chelsea remove husks and lay cobs onto a drying table to continue to dry. Corn is easiest to remove from the cobs if it is dried well.|
|Home-made corn-shucker. The cob is twisted against protruding screws.|
|Close-up of corn-shucker. Long screws are driven in from four sides leaving an interior hole ~ one-inch in diameter so cob fits but corn is rubbed off; wood is added at ends to prevent splitting and the handle makes it easier to use.|
|A tub of dried corn-kernels.|
Grinding corn: Obviously, if you're growing your own corn for grinding, you're going to need a grain-mill! After carefully comparing reviews of different brands and models, we chose to invest in a top-of-the line Diamant grain-mill. This is considered an 'heirloom' appliance in that, with proper care it will last for generations. Ours came with a handle for hand-grinding, can be hooked up to a bicycle for larger, human-powered batches or hooked up to a small motor (which is what we did) so we can grind large batches with ease. If the price-tag is prohibitive, consider purchasing one with your neighbors and setting it up in a central location for all to share.
|Mill hooked up to motor for faster grinding. It comes with a handle, for hand-grinding and we also have seen instructions for hooking it up to a stationary bicycle.|
|Close-up view of Diamant grain-mill. The 'can' on top has an open bottom and allows us to pour more grain in at a time. The knob at left adjusts the fineness of the grind.|
|Close-up of mounted engine.|
Obtained from Native Americans in the Pacific NW (Washington state, USA) in the 1950's. It is an Heirloom, non-hybrid variety that will "grow-true" year-after-year so you can save your own seed.
Description: 75-80 days - to maturity. The 4-4 1/2 foot stalks produce 5-7 inch ears of some of the finest tasting corn. Ears typically have 10-12 rows of kernels that dry blue-black upon maturing - 1 or 2 ears per plant.
Why we like it: Does well in a cooler, damper climate. Because of its short-stalk, it won't 'lodge' (fall over) as taller varieties sometimes do. Grinds into the sweetest cornmeal! Can be as much as 30% higher in protein than regular 'sweet-corn' LINK-nutritional facts.
Another variety we like: Golden Bantam corn. This variety is typically grown as a sweet-corn and eaten fresh but we discovered that it can be dried on the cob and processed in the same way as the Hooker's Blue and makes a delicious, sweet corn-meal! It tends to grow on shorter stalks so is less likely to blow over than some other varieties and produces corn with an old-fashioned, buttery, sweet-corn flavor. It's delicious even raw, right off the stalk! Bantam is also an Heirloom/open-pollinated variety so you can save your own seed.
Saving seed: Corn is notorious for cross-pollinating so, on years you are saving seed, you need to grow only a single variety or have multiple varieties grown quite distant from each other. Since corn is primarily wind-pollinated, grow the variety you wish to save seed from upwind (of your area's prevailing winds) to further minimize crossing.
Favorite recipes: Hooker's Blue corn is deliciously sweet and nutty-flavored. Here are some ideas for using it in recipes.
Hot cereal: Stir ground corn into lightly salted water in a 3:1 ratio (three times as much water as corn). Gently heat the corn and water together, stirring occasionally and simmer on low heat, in a covered pan for ~20 min.
Crumb-Free Whole Grain Corn Bread: We make a large batch of the dry-mix ahead of time so it's easy to just add milk, eggs and oil for a quick batch of corn bread or pancakes. Yum! LINK-Recipe
Whole Grain No-Knead Bread: We've adapted Jim Lahey's delicious no-knead bread-recipe to incorporate whole wheat flour and blue-corn meal. So tasty and nourishing! LINK-Recipe
Scarlet Runner Beans: Here is a post about "Growing Your Own Protein - Scarlet Runner Beans" - LINK. Beans and corn together give you all the essential amino-acids needed in one meal (a complete protein) and it's delicious too!
|Beautiful scarlet runner bean blossoms!|