Get dirty, have fun and grow more food with great gardening tips from real-life gardeners.
The author likes to use environmentally sound packaging and also compostable when available.
Read Part 1: Planting and Pest Control
Read Part 2: Harvesting, Drying, Shelling, and Grinding
Fresh Product vs. Value-Added Product
If you are growing corn to sell, you can sell it fresh (to eat) without any additional license or permit. You can also sell the green shucks/husks (fresh) at market. A lot of people buy these to make tamales or dumplings. Native Americans also used the “blades” of the stalk for dumplings. You take your mixture, most often flour/meal and cooked beans, ball it up, wrap with the “blade,” and put into a boiling pot of water to let it cook.
Corn shucks/husks use to be used in mattress ticking as“filler.” It was also braided and used to bottom chairs. We save the shucks and make our infamous cornshuck dolls. Our dolls were used as props for an episode of the NBC comedy Parks and Recreation.
When you change the corn in any way such as drying, grinding, etc., this is considered value-added. Anything changed must be processed in a certified kitchen. You can use your home kitchen as a “certified kitchen” only if it passes inspection. In our state, you cannot have an animal in the house. To apply for an inspection, you need to contact your states Department of Agriculture. You can usually just Google the information or do a search for your state plus “Dept. of Ag” to get a contact number. You can also contact your county Agricultural Cooperative Extension Agency for contacts.
There are other options to having your own certified kitchen. Some counties have their own certified kitchen facility and you can apply to use that. Most of the time, there is an annual fee and you have to set up time slots to share with others. You just need to make sure you have everything together that you’ll need because it is no fun to get to the kitchen and realize you have forgotten something — been there done that!
The author’s corn husk dolls were used as props for an episode of the NBC comedy Parks and Recreation.
Guidelines for Selling Cornmeal or Corn
Each state is different regarding agricultural products. Corn is one of the products that needs testing by the State Lab. Now, in North Carolina, the testing is free but the State Food Specialist will require at least 10 pounds of product (corn or cornmeal) to be tested annually. Sometimes the State office will pay for this “sample.”
There is concern for Aflotoxin in the corn, but this is mostly where there are large amounts of corn handled and it is stored for long periods of time. You can also sell corn to bakeries, etc., that want to grind their own corn. Again, we heat treat this corn before packaging for sale. This corn would not be good to sell for “seed” corn after heat-treating, because the heat will often “kill” the seed. It won’t germinate.
Packaging and Storing Corn
If you are selling your corn product at market or other outlet, make sure you have looked at all the legal aspects. We like to use environmentally sound packaging and also compostable when available. We use degradable paper tin tie coffee bags (with window) for our cornmeal. We use a biodegradable cellophane bag for the corn. We use 1 pound of product per bag and use a kitchen scale for weighing out the product.
Depending on the state you’re in, you may be required to use state inspected weight scales. We use these types of scales at the farmers markets for our produce. Any packaging you use must meet FDA requirements. Now, this is only if you want to market your corn product. By North Carolina state guidelines, you’re required to add a label giving the name, address and contact number of the farm/producer. When you’re selling at the farmers market, just make small batches unless you have orders already. You don’t want to expose the meal to fluctuations in light and temperature. Fresh meal will last for several weeks, if opened, in the refrigerator. It will last indefinitely in the freezer.
Is there more you can do with corn? Yep! You can take the corn in the “milk” stage (it appears milky when cut off the cob) and “grit” it or cut it off on a box grater. You can take this and make gritted cornbread. Here’s a simple recipe:
Gritted Cornbread Recipe
• 2 cups “gritted” corn
• ½ cup flour
• ½ tsp salt
• 2 tsp baking powder
• ½ tsp soda
• 1 egg
Let me add you can also add any extras that you like, such as homemade cheeses, herbs or “cracklins.” I like to add ramps in the Spring and onions other times.
1. Mix these ingredients together and either make a “cake” of cornbread in a cast iron skillet or make hush puppies (if making hush puppies, you may need to add a little more flour to hold together).
2. I like to add melted bacon grease to my cast iron skillet before pouring the mixture in. Heat your oven to 450 degrees and bake until golden brown, about 20-30 minutes. It's also great for making pancakes and cupcakes.
Note: You can make regular cornbread by substituting the “gritted” corn with your fresh homemade ‘Bloody Butcher’ cornmeal.
Corncob Jelly Recipe
Don’t throw those cobs away! Instead, what about making corn cob jelly? It is delicious. We make a Cherokee Corncob Jelly and here is the recipe:
• 12 corn cobs (yes, the dried cobs)
• 4 cups water
• 3 cups sugar
• 1 package Surejell
1. Make sure the corn cobs are completely clean. Chop off the ends if you need to.
2. Using a stainless steel pot, heat the water to boiling. Put the cobs in the boiling water and boil for about 15 minutes —you can almost smell a faint hint of cinnamon. Put on simmer for about an hour.
3. After one hour, remove cobs and strain the liquid. Measure liquid; you should have 3 cups. Put liquid back into the pot, add package of Surejell and put back on high heat.
4. Bring to boil and add sugar gradually while stirring. Bring to boil again and boil 1 minute (time it if you need to). Pour into sterizied jelly jars and seal. Do not disturb for at least 24 hours.
The cobs you have that you don’t use can be frozen for later use. They can also be used for animal bedding. Chip or shred them for use in chicken pens or other small animals. They can also be added to compost or used (shredded) around blueberries, etc. Oh yes, and corn cob pipes.
Selling Excess Seed
To sell seed for planting purposes, one needs to apply for a “Seed Dealers” license. Requirements and fees can be different for each state. Again, you must go through your state’s Department of Agriculture to apply.
If you wish to sell corn seed as animal feed, you must also contact this same office and apply for registration of animal feed. There are guidelines and fees involved with this procedure as well.
We sell the “seed” corn at $20.00/pound. The heat-treated seed that is sold to bakeries is priced at $4.00/pound and the cornmeal is also $4.00/pound. We also sell the seed to Fonta Flora Brewery that has made a beer called "Bloody Butcher Appalachian-Style Grisette."
So, the next time you think about corn — especially ‘Bloody Butcher’ corn — just think of the possibilities!
Susan Tipton-Fox will be a presenter at the 2016 MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR in Asheville, North Carolina, on April 9-10, 2016. With more than 150 workshops, there is no shortage of informative demonstrations and lectures to educate and entertain. Go to the FAIRs page for more details and reserve your passes, and read all of Susan's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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