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Organic Gardening

Get dirty, have fun and grow more food with great gardening tips from real-life gardeners.

Heritage Grinding Corns for Sustenance, Resilience and Self-Reliance

December and January is a time of rest in the gardens at SESE.  I spend a lot of time reading new gardening books, looking through seed catalogs and increasingly often following up on emails about seeds and gardening.

Daymon Morgan Kentucky Butcher Dent Corn for grinding 

Yesterday, I received an email with OSA’s response to a New York Times Blog post that perpetuates the misinformation and half truths about organic seed.  I felt inspired for the coming season reading about the potential and importance of maintaining our heritage of open-pollinated varieties, while also developing new open pollinated varieties.  The Organic Seed Alliance

helps gardeners and farmers to continue to have the freedom and security that comes with saving your own seed.

Floriani Red Flint Corn 

North Dakota State University corn breeder Frank Kutka recently examined these issues in a peer reviewed paper, “Open-Pollinated vs. Hybrid Maize Cultivars.” Learn more about why open-pollinated varieties continue to feed our growing population!

Carol Deppe’s new book the The Resilient Gardener: Food Production and Self Reliance in Uncertain Times” devotes a large section to developing self-reliance by growing grinding corns.  In addition to Dent and Flint corns for polenta, she grows traditional flour corns.  These flour corns can grind up so finely that they can be used to make cakes and sauces!  And corn flour is naturally gluten free.  The book covers five main subsistence crops: corn, beans, squash and… ducks. It is a great read and an inspiration for those of us striving to produce more of our own food.

The Resilient Gardener by Carol DeppeTennessee Red Cob Corn 

In the winter I feel so blessed to live with great cooks who use our homegrown corn to make fresh cornbread, tortillas or polenta almost every day throughout the winter.  The only problem is which do I enjoy most – Floriani Red Flint, old fashioned Tennessee Red Cob, Texas Gourdseed, Blue Clarage or Daymon Morgan’s? I think of it like having a dozen children, you love them equally for different reasons. We love playing with different grinds and finding how to make the unique flavors come through.

Try one of the many delicious recipes for Floriani Grain corn shared by Shelley Stonebrook at Mother Earth News or the authentic southern style corn muffin recipe below.  If you can’t wait until you have your own fresh corn to grind the folks at Anson Mills in South Carolina offer some of the best whole grain grits, polenta, cornmeal and flour to be found anywhere in the South along with plenty of recipes and instruction on how to store your fresh milled grain. After you taste them I think you’ll want to add a dent, flint or flour corn to your garden plans for 2012.

Heirloom Corn Muffins 

Southern Style Cornbread Muffins 

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Oil 2 12-hole muffin pans and put in the oven to heat while you prepare the batter.

 Dry Ingredients: 

2 cups fresh ground cornmeal
¾ cup whole wheat flour
2 tbsp. sorghum, molasses, or sugar
2 ½ tsp. baking powder
½ t baking soda
1 tsp. salt

Wet Ingredients: 

2 cups buttermilk
2 large eggs, beaten
¼ cup vegetable oil or melted butter


In a large bowl thoroughly mix all the dry ingredients. Make a well in the center.

In a separate bowl whisk together all the wet ingredients. Pour into the well and stir until the batter is moistened. Do not over mix - leave the batter a bit lumpy. Take out and fill the hot muffin pans one at a time: quickly fill each well 2/3 full with batter and return to the middle shelf in the oven. Bake 10-12 minutes until the tops are golden brown. Cool a few minutes, remove the muffins from the tins, and serve immediately.

Thanks for stopping by and we hope you’ll come back often to see what we’re growing and cooking.  

 Ira Wallace lives and gardens at Acorn Community Farm home of Southern Exposure Seed Exchange where she coordinates variety selection and seed growers. Southern Exposure offers 700+varieties of Non-GMO, open pollinated and organic seeds. Ira is also a co-organizer of the Heritage Harvest Festival at Monticello. She serves on the board of the Organic Seed Alliance and is a frequent presenter at the Mother Earth News Fairs and many other events throughout the Southeast.