Try Puhwem 'Mother Corn,' a Revered Native American Variety

| 12/26/2012 11:08:49 PM

Tags: corn, grain, vegetable varieties, seeds, native american,

While recently working on an article about Native American gardening and vegetable varietes traced back to Native Americans, I was struck by what I learned about one corn variety in particular, ‘Puhwem’ corn.

According to author and food historian William Woys Weaver, ‘Puhwem’ is one of the tallest Native American corns known, reaching about 18 feet. Puhwem Native American CornThe photo seen here shows the impressive, towering nature of this corn. Pictured in this shot is Josiah Taylor, the 6-foot-3-inch-tall farmer at Mill Hollow Farm, standing by the corn just to give viewers an idea of proportion. One advantage of growing this variety is that it’s raccoon-proof because the corn grows so high up on the plants.

Native peoples used corn differently than we tend to. In the case of this corn variety, so much more than just the kernels were valuable. ‘Puhwem’ plants become similar to bamboo if dried, so the stalks were sewn together and used for making structure walls. The huge leaves were woven into mats, shoes, hanging room dividers, and even structure roofs.

Weaver explained to me that Puhwem is considered a “mother corn,” meaning it was a sacred variety that was likely planted first. Because nearly every part of the plant was utilized, the variety was a “total provider” for the people.

‘Puhwem’ mother corn is also one of the best Native American corns for making corn flour. It has exceptional, rich flavor and is wonderful in dumplings and baked goods.

Mill Hollow Farm in Pennsylvania is currently the only seed source for this corn variety. The farmers there grow the corn organically and hand-sort the seed. To order seed corn from this farm, you may send a check or money order payable to Mill Hollow Farm; P.O. Box 501; Edgemont, PA 19028. The cost is $14 per 8-ounce packet (includes postage).

Shelley Stonebrook is MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine’s main gardening editor. She’s passionate about growing healthy, sustainable food and taking care of our environment. Follow her on Twitter, Pinterest and .

Photo By Rob Cardillo

loretta cotton sherman
3/3/2013 2:29:00 AM

Hi Josh, I'm interested in some corn & sent an email to on Feb 20th. Haven't heard anything back, hope everything is OK . Kurt

2/13/2013 5:38:54 PM

Hi Cheyenne, Yes, it is a great corn for baking. I do not know anyone personally who has grown it in Arizona, however, if that is your zone, and you can irrigate during dry spells, it should do fine. Good luck!

cheyenne wilson
1/31/2013 4:55:03 AM

This sounds like a great addition for bread making! Does it grow in Arizona? I can usually grow for zones 6-7.

1/24/2013 7:00:43 PM

Hi Ted, this is Josiah Taylor from Mill Hollow Farm. Puhwem is not a sweet corn, it is a flour corn. It is ideal for grinding, and making something like Mexican masa harina. However, it can be harvested at the milk stage, early on, when young - the kernels are more tender, juicy, and a little bit sweet then, at this point it can be eaten on the cob like sweet corn. This might be nice creamed, I haven't tried that. Also, later in the season, upon regular harvest, unpollinated "nubbins" (without fertilized, developed kernels) can be pickled and used like baby corn. Hope this helps! Keep growing!

1/24/2013 6:51:47 PM

Hi Elaine, this is Josiah Taylor from Mill Hollow Farm. I've asked William Woyes Weaver about this and what I can say is that it is not ideal as chicken feed as the kernels are very large and so you would likely need to crush or grind them. Also, as such a rare corn, you would be spoiling your chickens (though we do want to take great care of our animals, don't we?). It makes a great grinding corn for you to cook with or eat fresh, see above reply. We will be growing a very rare Mayan corn that is ideal for chicken fed. Hope this helps. Thanks for your interest!

ted kelly
1/6/2013 7:02:03 PM

What does it taste like fresh on the cob or creamed? I'm not to crazy about sweet corn since I grew up eating fresh field corn. We planted 40 acres every year to sell for feed and we ate it fresh and creamed it for freezing.

elaine korud
1/6/2013 4:39:51 PM

Would this make a suitable feed for chickens?

1/3/2013 4:35:04 PM

Hi Kurt, This is Josiah Taylor, from Mill Hollow Farm. Yes, we are happy to ship to Canada, with an additional fee to cover postage. You can contact us at to place an order. Thanks and keep growing!

kurt sherman
12/29/2012 3:08:21 PM

does anyone know if they can ship to Canada, sounds like something that would fit right in in my garden thanks. ks

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