Help Bring Great Corn Back to Our Table!

WANTED: Samples of great-tasting corn varieties for cornbread, grits, polenta and tortillas. 

Corn is the great native crop of the Americas, yet even though industrial agriculture produces millions of pounds of corn every year, it’s nearly impossible to buy a bag of good-tasting, whole-kernel corn or fresh-ground whole cornmeal. Corn is a perfect grain crop for home gardeners, and the flavor of some varieties can be far better than most of us know. But even if you want to grow your own, it’s tough to find seed for the best-tasting varieties and information on which varieties are best for your purposes. We are launching a multi-year project to locate and highlight rare grain corn varieties with great flavor, before they all are lost.

Like the tennis-ball tomato, the big-but-bland strawberry and an ever-increasing list of foods, the grits, cornmeal and corn bread mixes you buy in the supermarket are a far cry from Real Food. If you want to know what we are all missing, order some hand-selected, fresh, stone-ground, heirloom-variety corn from Anson Mills: (803) 467-4122. Our personal favorite is their Rustic Coarse Polenta Integrale, milled from a rare heirloom red Trentino flint corn that was, until recently, nearly extinct. Polenta (aka grits) made from this corn is rich and creamy with outstanding corn flavor. Grain corn with this kind of flavor is almost impossible to buy.

The dominance of hybrid corn grown for animal food and industrial production of corn syrup and starches, and the push for ever greater "efficiency" in food processing have all but obliterated older open-pollinated corns that were bred, grown and prepared in ways that resulted in outstanding flavor. Unless we resist, soon we will no longer know how good Real Corn can be.

Mother Earth News is launching a campaign to help bring this extraordinary native grain back to the tables of America. To begin, we need you to spread the word and urge anyone who grows great-tasting grain corn varieties to send us samples. We are especially looking for varieties that someone is already growing and selling as whole grain for grinding at home or for gardeners to grow.

Our "Kitchen Garden" columnist, Will Woys Weaver, and Glenn Roberts, Anson Mills owner and heirloom grain expert, have agreed to help us evaluate the varieties with the best flavor and cooking qualities. If you have a variety you think we should try, send us at least 5 pounds of whole kernels along with as much information as you have about the variety, what areas it grows well in and who is growing it. Send your samples to: "Great Corn Revival"; Mother Earth News; 1503 SW 42nd St.; Topeka, KS 66609. If you have questions, e-mail us at letters@MotherEarthNews.com.

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