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Grow this forgotten crop to beat the soaring price of wheat | New World Seeds & Tubers

Most people have never heard of it. It’s a type of corn but it’s not “sweet corn” or “field corn” (a.k.a. dent corn) that most people are familiar with, nor is it popcorn, which is a type of “flint corn”.

It’s used to make a product that hasn’t been available retail for quite a few generations now, namely corn-flour. Because it’s no longer available, most people use the words “corn flour” to mean either corn starch, or fine corn-meal. Flour corns are easier to grind into a fine consistency because they don’t contain any of the harder flinty starches.

You can use corn-flour to make cakes, pancakes, muffins, cookies, and similar types of quickbreads and pastries where the gluten in wheat is undesirable anyway. They won’t have the same flavor or texture as if they were made out of soft wheat flour, but the difference along with the color is part of their charm. As is true of most Amerindian crops, and in contrast to wheat, corn is easy to grow and harvest using hand labor and a minimum of tools.

One purpose you don’t use it for is making tortillas. For that you need masa harina de maiz, which is made from specially processed flint corn. Otherwise, they would fall apart.

We’re growing out Dave Christensen’s beautiful “Painted Mountain” flour corns. We like this variety because of its reliability under challenging growing conditions; we expect a harvest despite the severe La Niña conditions currently sabotaging other crops in our part of the world. These intensely-colored corns are sold by other merchants as “ornamental corn”, but Mr. Christensen intended them as food. You can have your cake and eat it too by displaying them on your autumn table before eventually shelling the kernels off the cob for storage. The whole kernels will keep better than flour, so grind it as you need it, and keep the different colors separate to improve the color and flavor of the finished product.

Have a look at it over at Dave Christensen’s website: www.seedweneed.com.

We expect our first offering of this corn, along with some recipes and tips for using it, to be ready for the 2012 growing year. To stay informed of availability of this and other fine crops, be sure to sign up for our newsletter.

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3 Responses to “Grow this forgotten crop to beat the soaring price of wheat”

  1. Hi Tom, nice article in the Times recently (http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/mobile/?type=story&id=2015138129&). I happened across your name on the TaterMater Forum whilst searching for the wheat variety mentioned in Plenty (100-mile diet) that was grown on Salt Spring Island. Please consider more posts on Red Fife wheat, please. I can’t get it imported from Salt Spring Seeds, but may request a small amount from you for home-use soon. We’re planning on moving to Bainbridge Island. Regards. Grace.

    • Hello, this is Rob not Tom but I’ll foreword your comment to him.

      We have some Red Fife, and several of its cousins too. It was a popular wheat. It will take a while to build up inventory because as you’re probably already painfully aware it’s hard to get them in any larger amounts than tiny packs. We also had a difficult growing year as did many parts of the world, but we are lucky that a bad year for us still isn’t bad enough to kill wheat–just reduced our yields. We didn’t get good tillering.

      The good news is that we’re making progress and learning our lessons.

      Thanks for your interest. We’ll keep you posted.

  2. I am growing the flower corn this year,
    Mohave white flower corn and the painted mountain flower corn,
    I was going to use them to make tortillas as well as corn bread and cookies and things like that,
    if you are going to make corn tortillas from flower corn, then you have to
    nixtamalize the corn, so search for “Nixtamalization” on the web to find how to make the tortillas from your flower corn

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