The Return of a Great Red Corn Variety

This heirloom red corn has traveled the world. Nows its rich, distinctive flavor has finally come home.

| February/March 2009

Red Corn

From North America to Italy and back again, "Floriani Red Flint" is an heirloom red corn that packs a rich, warm, complex flavor.


It is a great pleasure to welcome back a wonderful-tasting red corn from Italy: "Floriani Red Flint." The remarkable taste of polenta and grits made from this heirloom corn prompted me to bring it back to the United States and work to make it available to home gardeners. (At their most basic, polenta and grits are simply coarsely ground cornmeal.) Cornmeal made from Floriani Red Flint has a rich, warm and complex taste. And it makes a polenta of unusual distinction. "Floriani" polenta is rich in flavor in part because it is traditionally made from whole cornmeal — polenta integrale — rather than the degermed corn typically found in commercial polenta, grits, and cornmeal.

I’ve named this corn ‘Floriani Red Flint’ after my Italian friends who grow it and are generously sharing their seeds. This corn was taken to Italy from North America hundreds of years ago, where it was changed through centuries of selection by Alpine farmers who ate it themselves (rather than using corn mainly as animal feed, which has been the case with most corn in the United States in the last 150 years). Now it comes back to us, identified by botanists as Zea rostrato spin rosso della Valsugana. It was the staple polenta corn of people living in the Valsugana Valley near the city of Trento, but is now only grown by enthusiasts, such as my friend’s father, Silvano Floriani.

MOTHER EARTH NEWS invited several seed companies to trial ‘Floriani Red Flint’ in 2008, and two companies, Southern Exposure Seed Exchange and FEDCO, are now offering it in their catalogs.

Starke Round Barn Historic Site offers Floriani corn for grinding. 

We hope you will welcome this wandering relation back by growing it in your garden. In our trials so far, ‘Floriani’ has grown well in the South, the Midwest, and in California.

‘Floriani Red Flint’ is not the only neglected heirloom corn deserving attention. Even as our modern diet has become distorted by cheap corn syrup and other highly processed corn products, we are at risk of losing heirloom corns with unique flavor and nutrition. Over the next few years, MOTHER EARTH NEWS will be working with me and other heirloom corn experts to highlight distinctive varieties and promote a revival of this nutritious, easy-to-grow-and-preserve garden crop as an essential element in our sustainable kitchens.

11/6/2014 7:30:43 AM

That doesn't appear to be a "dent" corn? I have grown "bloody butcher" field corn for years, from seeds handed down for generations. It is a deep red corn, grows very tall, has very large ears, and I use it for grinding corn meal. The story is that young girl was kidnapped by indains from present day Webster County WV, and taken across the river to present day Chillicothe OH area. She escaped with a small bag of corn to eat along the way. She made it home, and they grew the seeds. That is the story/legend/lore of Bloody Butcher Corn. I will have to try some of Floriana Red to see how I like it.

alice rockey_1
8/1/2011 12:34:08 PM

This is the first corn I've ever grown and I'm so thrilled. It is nine feet tall! I planted a three sisters garden in a raised bed full of compost. When the corn was about a foot tall, I spread grass clipping around the hills to about 4" deep. Do I keep the ears on the plant until everything dries? The ears seem quite large already and I'm in no hurry. I'm hoping my old VitaMix will do the grinding!

4/10/2010 8:20:40 PM

I hope no one will mind me jumping in on answering the question about fresh eating. Both flint and dent corn are best for things other than fresh eating (or frozen eating). Their protein content and hard starches are not really suitable for corn on the cob, corn off the cob, etc. You can eat field corn fresh within a few hours of picking, but it's just not the same thing as sweet corn.

james cox_4
10/9/2009 1:00:35 PM

You can also find great cornmeal grinders on ebay. I recently purchased one from Dicount Tommy's it is similar to a meat grinder, but the millings are different and it has a large capacity shoot that holds the corn and feeds into the grinder. Less than $35.00 with Shipping....I had one problem after getting mine.. they replaced it no questions asked.. Now the problem is getting to use it as the grandkids love to turn the crank to grind cornmeal for my corn bread...

mt mi mi
10/9/2009 11:38:46 AM

Matthew, I too am wondering if it's good for eating fresh?

max gersenson_1
4/26/2009 12:29:18 AM

To Myrt: Two good references for corn pollination are as follows... I give these two references because they are lengthy and contain a great deal of explanatory information. As for the covering material on corn,I use wax paper loosely wrapped to allow for air penetration and protection from rain and dew. Wetness will prevent the discharge of pollen. the silks must be dry for the pollen to travel down the silk and begin the process of forming the kernel. Each silk will form one kernel when pollination takes place.

4/11/2009 2:18:20 PM

Rita and Shannon, I recommend Lehman's catalog for grain mills and other gardening/cooking items. They have a great deal of high quality, low cost, non-electric items for their Amish and Mennonite customers but they will sell them to the rest of us too. :=) You can sign up for weekly emails with recipes, gardening tips, homestead stories and other items of interest.

4/10/2009 10:25:57 PM

corn is a grain ont a vegetable

4/10/2009 6:44:40 PM

Some questions on corn pollination info. What do you wrap the corn ears with? How do you determine when the tassels are properly mature for pollinating? Thanks in advance.

max gersenson_1
4/10/2009 2:32:09 PM

To fugitiveartist.... Wrap the ear of corn to prevent pollination from other strains then you must maintain the wrap until the tassels are mature...then UNWRAP the cover and pollinate the tassels with pollen from the desired strain of corn. Then REPLACE the cover to prevent cross-pollination from undesireable strains. YOU MUST POLLINATE THE TASSELS IN ORDER TO DEVELOP THE KERNELS IN THE PROTECTED EAR OF CORN. Do this with each ear of corn that you wish to selectively pollinate. Remove the covers when the tassels become inactive. ENJOY !!!

3/1/2009 1:19:45 PM

Is it possible to somehow wrap a corn plant so that it does not get contaminated by other corn? I have read that corn pollen can be transported by the wind for miles. I would love to grow and save seed from an heirloom variety of corn (and some other heirloom veggies as well), but I am in a rural area and much corn is planted around here and I am sure most of it is genetically modified.

1/31/2009 12:09:39 PM

yes, please! i am also looking for a very inexpensive corn and grain mill. i used to have one 20 years ago, lost it. nothing better in the world than home made ground cornmeal bread. i'm looking for the old fashioned 'field corn' seed of 20 years ago, also. got some?

1/27/2009 10:11:18 AM

Is the Floriani Flint corn good for eating and cooking like normal corn, or is it just meant for meal and grits? Also, do you know where small grinders can be purchased to make your own meal and grits? Thanks!

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