Indian Corn

There are few food items which proclaim loudly that it is summer more than corn...

Sweet corn is highly anticipated all growing season. Its taste and color remind us of long sunny days, fun, and the bounty of fresh food we have. Where would summer be without sweet corn.

Another type of corn symbolizes the next season of autumn, that is Indian corn. Who really has given this kind any thought other than how it would look hanging on the front door? It can, though be just as symbolic of fall as sweet corn is in the summer.

History

  • Corn as we know it, is usually called maize in the majority of the world. And it has an interesting history. The plant as we know it started out as a tall grass in Mexico and cultivated ever since. Sweet corn, what we tend to eat in the summer is known for its high sugar content. It is generally picked early in its development (the milk stage) and cooked or preserved quickly, otherwise it becomes tough and starchy. What is unusual about sweet corn is, we consider it a vegetable this way. Other types of corn are grown, picked, and processed as a grain.
  • Dent corn is different than sweet corn even though it is yellow and is very similar-looking to sweet corn. When mature, a small indenture, or dent, is on each kernel. Dent corn is used to feed livestock. Corn  meal flour, corn chips, and other snack foods are usually made from dent corn. Because of its high starch content, dent corn is used to make corn syrup and even plastics.
  • Flint corn is so called because the outer shell is hard and tough like a flint. Indian corn is a type of flint. It has been used by Native Americans for centuries. It makes an ideal decoration because the kernels dry evenly. This is possible because there is a soft starch surrounded by a hard starch and dries slowly. Dent corn has equal amounts of soft and hard starch. They dry at different rates, giving the kernels an uneven texture. Indian does not spoil nearly as fast as the other type of corn so it is perfect for decoration. This quality made it an important food source for the early Americans as well. Some type of polenta and hominy are made from Indian corn.

So, as you are decorating your home with Indian corn, remember how versatile and important maize has been to history, not just fall. To learn more about Indian corn, the Penn State Master Gardeners in Lackawanna County have the free publication “Indian Corn”. Please contact us at 570-963-6842 or email LackawannaMG@psu.edu for a copy.

Contact Information

Steve Ward
  • Master Gardener Coordinator, Lackawanna County
Email:
Phone: 570-963-6842