Thursday, August 18, 2016

corn


Sweet corn. I think the harvesting is beautiful. It makes me want to drive one of those harvesting trucks and be a part of all the fun that they're having. 

But I cannot help but think of all the things being stripped off and pulled up along with the corn, undesirable things like spiders and their webs with their trapped bugs, dead birds, bird poop, mice, voles, dead bats and the like. And the giant monoculture seems a bad idea, especially with corn, a particularly depleting plant.

I think that I may have just put myself off corn for awhile. 

If only they'd plant the seeds along with a dead fish and squash and beans like native indians taught us to do. But NooOOOoooo. 

There are two main types of corn, you know, dent and flint
Dent corn is most commonly used for animal feed and for milled food ingredients, grits, meals, flours. it has deposits of a waxy starch at the top that makes the dent when the kernel is dried. Popcorn and flint corn have a larger amount of protein that surround granules of starch.

So we're interested in flint type corn.  

A woman online said one of her favorite books is Zingerman's so I bought it and read it.
It is a fun book. [Amazon] You can buy it for ¢75 plus shipping. Ari Weinzweig writes about his obsessions and his travels as they relate to food and how he latched onto trying to find the best of all things. 

Zingerman's is a famous deli. I recall a news item about Obama and his entourage shutting down the whole place for a lunch. For some reason these proprietors don't seem to mind the loss of business for the prestige of a presidential visit even though the entire security detail cannot order their own sandwich. I'm imagining. 

Ari writes at length about his visit to Northern Italy where a single farmer up there still grows an heirloom type of corn called otto file, eight rows, that is spectacular for polenta, its characteristics described in loving detail. He recalls having the prepared polenta at an Italian family's home and deciding that he must carry this type, expense being no barrier. It is expensive on the Zingerman's web site, $12.00 per kilo, $5.45 LB, I think. That's not so terribly bad until you add flat shipping that doubles the cost. 

This corn is expensive because of ridiculously low yields. It is also a late harvest. And picked by hand. Nobody wants to grow the stuff, no matter it tastes better than any other. That is the tradeoff between flavor and production. It just doesn't make sense to grow the low yield pain in the butt types. 

I can find one other vendor that imports the same stuff, Formaggio Kitchen, they are $1.00 more expensive, their shipping is similar. They too are obsessed with recapturing the older type grains that taste noticeably better.

Both places offer promo codes that could bring down the cost significantly if only they worked. I'm convinced at this point those offers are bogus. I had no success with either of them. After a good deal of time spent I gave up, rather angry at trying so long.

A third place I found, AnsonMills offers the same and similar products. I think all the grains there are grown in the U.S. They all have low yields no matter the grain. They all taste better. They are all more expensive. They don't want to mess around with mail order for anything  smaller than four packages of their products. So you have to buy multiples, or try other of their lauded heirloom products. 

Here is what Anson Mills writes about their eight row type of polenta. Their page on this subject is rather lengthy.
Folks often ask us which is better, white or yellow corn? Native Americans grew corn of every color, of course, and even in Charleston today, the best of the heirloom kitchen, mill, and whiskey corns that survived into modern times are, in order of flavor diversity, red, blue, purple, pink, orange, white, and yellow. Our slightly unsatisfying answer to the question of white versus yellow heirloom corns is this: white corn is generally less manipulated from its Native American antecedents than yellow corn, even if both are equivalent-era heirloom varieties. White flavor traits are mineral, floral, and dairy up front supported by lovely sweet and cream corn aromas and flavors. Yellow corn says “corn” robustly up front: roast corn, sweet corn, cream corn, and parch corn, a mélange of corn flavors and aromas with distinct mineral and citrus nuances underneath. 

18 comments:

Trooper York said...

Chip what are your feelings about GMO corn?

ricpic said...

Corn has protein? I didn't know that. I loved cream of corn soup as a kid. Or is it creamed corn soup? Corn fritters beat pancakes going away.

Chip Ahoy said...

I don't have a problem with any of that. I think it's brilliant.

But I don't like companies making seedless things so that they capture the market. I want to be able to grow things myself.

I bought popcorn from Anson, two packages, I figure I can mill it myself into polenta, plus plant the seeds if I want to. Or give them to someone who will. Clever, eh? I don't think you can do that with all GMO, although I could be wrong.

Trooper York said...

I don't know Chip. GMO is a racket and I think it might have deleterious health effects in the long run. So I try to stay away from GMO products.

ndspinelli said...

Corn is YUUUGE here in Wisconsin. Both sweet corn and feed corn. A nearby town has their annual sweet corn festival coming up. As soon as you pick corn it starts losing its natural sweetness. You can truly tell the difference if you pick it and cook it within minutes. Make you slap yo' mamma. I don't put butter and just a little salt. The aforementioned corn festival steams it in the husks. That's the best way I've ever had it and I've had it just about every way.

Evi L. Bloggerlady said...

Should I make a "Children of the Corn" reference?

For a terrible movie, it is amazing that people do reference it a lot.

Dad Bones said...

Trooper

I'm skeptical of the stigma attached to GMO grains but I suppose they could prove to be more harmful to our health than I think. Just because I haven't suffered ill effects from eating them doesn't mean others haven't. A lady friend who was a farm kid like me is down on anything that's GMO, plus pesticides, herbicides and almost anything with chemicals in it produced by corporations she sees as interested only in profits with no consideration to the health of consumers. She suffers from MCS (Multiple Chemical Sensitivities) and apparently gets sick when exposed to them. Otherwise she's as strong, healthy, good looking and sexy as you could hope for in a 60 yr old woman. But when a crop duster flies near her mom's farm house spraying a chemical mist she and her mother get sick.

I suspect it has to do with the strength of our immune systems. A weakened immune system will be more sensitive to all that stuff. My friend wants the U.S. to become like Norway or any country that wants to produce only organic food and outlaw anything that's GMO. I don't know if she and others will have their way or if humans will have to become like certain insects that have developed a resistance to a chemical that was supposed to kill them. At least GMO's weren't designed to make us sick.


Chip

No, I didn't know that there are two types of corn, dent corn and flint corn. It's an interesting fact. If I can remember it I might use it the next time my lady friend starts ranting about GMO's. Your post has all kinds of interesting information about corn. I'll bookmark it.

Sixty Grit said...

Thank goodness corn has never been modified in the past. Having more than about 3 kernels per cob is decadent.

I grew up in an area that was big on sweet corn, feed corn, too. I know much about those plants, used to grow my own, for about 20 years. Or at least it seemed like 20 years.

Corn was never big where I live now - tobacco, cotton, soybeans - those are the biggies, with tobacco almost gone now. Take a trip down east and you will see massive farms - farms that stretch for miles, and depopulated towns, where the biggest business are the tractor stores.

Combines sell for a half a million dollars or so, and all the related equipment is expensive, too. Now that agriculture is almost completely mechanized there is no need for humans to work the farm, other than to maintain and operate the equipment. So the peeps moved on, or got strung out on drugs and now survive by rippin' and runnin'.

Now if only someone could gene splice feet onto ears of corn the crop could walk itself to the store - SCIENCE!!!

Leland said...

I concur about driving a harvestor. I'd enjoy it. But the work isn't the harvesting, but the maintenance of the harvestor.

Sixty Grit said...

The cabs on those machines are more comfortable than my house.

GPS is used to keep the combines running where they are supposed to. Also, the fields are mapped and GIS is used to control planting and watering needs.

I imagine that soon the human will be removed from the cab and harvesting will be totally automated.

In addition, now that no-till planting is used, not only are the crops a monoculture, but all other life forms are driven from the fields. Years ago the best pheasant hunting (an introduced species of bird, by the way - just another Chinese immigrant) was in corn fields after they were harvested. Now, no spillage, no insects and no pheasants.

So rest easy - there are no spiders in your corn.

AllenS said...

I'm not sure exactly what this post is all about. When you buy seed corn, there are different types of seed corn available. Flat and rounds. Then there are sizes. When you set up your corn planter for the types of seed corn that you buy to plant, you need to look at the seed corn bags which will tell you what plates (that sit inside on the bottom of or your seed boxes) on your corn planter that you need to install.

Dad Bones said...

I had to run the disc, the rotary hoe and the cultivator but Dad never let me do any planting so I never learned about plates and seed corn sizes. -- Sixty is right about the efficiency of modern corn harvesters. The two row Oliver picker we had took forever and left a lot of ears on the ground that we had to go back later and pick up by hand. Sometimes my uncle Delbert who liked to hunt pheasants would ride in the wagon behind the picker with his 12 gauge. Actually he only did it once. Three roosters flew up at one time and Uncle Del took them all down. I'd like to think he had a pump instead of a semi auto but I don't remember. Anyhow it was too easy for him even if he had to pump another shell in after the first two shots.

ricpic said...

NO INSECTS?!

A big fat bumblebee was dying on my deck
And a fat green grasshopper was hanging off my door,
Ladybugs were storming, storming my north wall
And the night was pulsing, flickering, with lightning bugs galore --
Insects are forever, like star-strew in the sky,
There always will be insects, no different than the poor.

ricpic said...

That should be west wall because my west wall gets all that hot sun and the damned ladybugs LOVE IT.

chickelit said...

I was hoping this post would attract MamaM.

XRay said...

All the talk of corn... and no mention of grits. Now here in the SW it is difficult to find grits, other than Quaker Oats Instant Grits, which I would only consume if starving. So, instead, I (we) shop for polenta. So thanks Chip for the tips, as I love my grits and eggs for breakfast.

The South would have starved post Civil War if not for corn. You'll notice many Southern recipe books have corn 'something' as a centerpiece. My granny grew corn on the 160 acres she farmed by herself down in SE Georgia. Planted by hand, weeded by hand, harvested by hand. Just like her peanuts, her beans, her yams, her potatoes, her greens, her chickens, her pigs, and her cows. She was one tough customer. As the saying goes, just as soon shoot you as look at you. She liked her Oldsmobile's though, bought a new one every year. Well, lest I paint negatively, also generous to a fault for those, truly, in need.

ndspinelli said...

Being a northerners, I loved the scene in the diner in My Cousin Vinny where he questions the cook about grits.

oopsy daisy said...

Golden Pheasant brand polenta is my favorite. You may be able to find it on the net but it can be expensive, as Chip has pointed out, with the shipping. Coarse ground corn. It is great.

The bugs and crap that is allowed in our food is really gross, if you know about it. My father had a place in Costa Rica for some time and he took pictures of the coffee bean plantation process. The beans, which are actually berries, are laid out on the ground to dry. In the 'better' processing areas they are on mats or not directly on the ground. The wasps swarm all over them and other insects, like cockroaches, feast on the juicy outer part of the berries. The dried beans that are ground into coffee often contain not just the dead wasps and bugs but also bits of dirt, stones, and twigs. All this is ground up into your coffee.

GROSS. This is why we buy our beans and grind them ourselves. You can SEE what is being ground up.