Floriani Red Flint Corn: The Perfect Staple Crop

It was once a staple crop in northern Italy, but now America is gradually catching on to the value of Floriani red flint corn.


| December 2010/January 2011



Floriani red flint corn - polenta

You and your dinner guests will marvel at the flavor of polenta made with Floriani. Consider serving your polenta on a traditional wooden board, perhaps accented with lightly cooked kale. 


JIM MACKENZIE

Grain corn is a terrific crop for homesteaders who want to grow their own staple crops, and it’s productive enough to be rewarding even in urban gardens. You can grow corn anywhere in the continental United States, and it’s easy for any household to harvest, store, and process it into flour and cornmeal. Grain corn is much easier to process than wheat is, and, in many ways, cornmeal is a more versatile grain staple than wheat flour.

A New World of Corn

Cornmeal is a culinary world in itself: cornbread, muffins, pancakes, waffles, polenta, grits, scrapple, cornmeal crusts for fried chicken or vegetable fritters, and, if you boil whole kernels with culinary lime, you enter the world of hominy, hominy grits, and Mexican tortillas and tamales. Yet it’s ironic that despite 88 million acres of corn growing in the United States (the estimate for 2010), there are few choices of grain corn in the grocery store. Cornmeal is such a commodity product that it’s rarely fresh in stores, packages don’t tell you which corn variety was ground to make it, and it’s nearly impossible to buy whole kernels for grinding. But there’s hope.

Floriani Red Flint corn is a rare, open-pollinated corn variety from Italy with unforgettable flavor — and the possibilities for cooking with it are endless. If you’re hoping to become self-sufficient in grain, or if you’re looking for a cornmeal with a rich, distinct taste and texture, then you’ll love Floriani. This heirloom corn is an old variety from the Italian Alps that was originally selected for qualities that make great polenta. This particular variety is a landrace (a locally adapted variety that has more variation than a variety bred for specific qualities) from the Valsugana Valley, where subsistence farmers grew it as the staple food until the mid-20th century. The Alpine farmers dried their crop, shucked the ears, and ground the corn into a coarse meal that they boiled and served as polenta.

While the hulls are red, the meal is a deep yellow with a hint of pink. It is physically beautiful and has a rich, complex flavor to match. ‘Floriani Red Flint’ is the ideal grain corn crop for homesteading: productive, rewarding, and not the usual industrial fare.

Fedco, a Maine-based seed company, had this to say about Floriani in its 2010 catalog: “Stop the presses! Fabulous flavor is why we stuck Floriani into the catalog at the last possible moment. Its medium-to-deep red, pointed kernels are easy to shell. They grind into a fine, pinkish meal that bakes with an appealing spongy texture. Floriani’s richly sweet, delicious, corny taste beat the competition silly in our pancake and cornbread muffin bake-off.”

Growing Floriani and Selecting Seed

‘Floriani Red Flint’ is new to the United States. I first encountered it in Italy while visiting a friend whose family grew the corn for their nightly polenta. I admired the flavor of the corn and was given a kilo of it to bring home. With the help of MOTHER EARTH NEWS, growers have now tested the corn in Kansas, Maine, Nebraska, South Carolina, and Northern California.

mike franek
1/2/2012 12:34:17 AM

I have ordered a pound of red flint corn from Fedco seeds. I would be happy to share some seed with you. I feel you need more then 15 kernals, more like 40 so you get proper pollination. I need an address and you can send me some seeds from your corn in the fall so I can cross plant them with mine. Hows that for a deal?


brian briggs
9/18/2011 8:22:05 PM

I too am interested in growing this grain in my garden next year. But all the commerical sources for seed are out of stock. Is there anyone out there willing to share 10-15 kernals so I can start my crop?


s. p.
3/25/2011 1:56:32 PM

Great article, would love to buy the seeds. But they seems to be unavailable anywhere on the web (incld. the websites you mention). Any ideas where we could buy them?


motherearthpam
12/7/2010 3:42:51 AM

This article really sparked my interest. I hadn't considered doing any type of grain in our garden. We have lots of pasture that can be used for growing grain/corn but I must confess. I am not very good at doing the math. Based on this article, I should buy 2,000 seeds, about 19 ounces and plant them 1 foot apart in 100 foot rows. And I would need 20 rows. That would yield 200 pounds of grain. Is that correct? Is it stored as whole kernels? How long can the ground meal be kept? Should it be refridgerated after ground? Thanks for an awesome idea and for doing so much for improving our agriculture. And huge kudos for talking about scrapple! I grew up on it and it's very hard to find anyplace other than a 200 mile radius around Pennsylvania.






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