Any advice on planting heirloom corn?

Discussion in 'Common Vegetables' started by garand555, Jan 16, 2013.

  1. garand555

    garand555 Smoke Blower

    I'm pretty sure that food prices are going to go up this year for various reasons and I am on enough land to help offset that somewhat if it gets bad, and I really want to learn how to grow my own non-meat food anyhow, so I decided I was going to plant, amongst other things, corn. I am interested in growing some heirloom varieties, including a couple which are local. I'm not looking for sweet corn, but rather stuff that I can turn into corn flower, nixtamalize, etc... Basically, if I can make corn bread, corn tortillas and posole, I'll be happy. And I'll have a use for the ash from my smoker;)

    I was looking at two local varieties, a Valarde Blue and the Hopi Blue. I know they'll do well around here, I know the Hopi Blue is good stuff and I figured I'd take a chance with the Valarde, as it supposedly produces decent sized ears. While I should be able to find the Hopi Blue seed at a reasonable price if I look around, the only place that I know to get the Valarde is a bit pricey, but it doesn't seem to be a very common variety, so it is what it is.

    Another that I was looking at was Bloody Butcher. It seems to be readily available, and I've also read that people get some decent yields for an heirloom variety. Anybody have any experience with it? Given what I want to do, is it worth it, or are there other better varieties?

    A bit about what I have available: Once I take the hack saw to the manifold on my irrigation well and add some stuff to it, I'll have a sufficient supply of water that I can easily move around where ever I want. I can get more manure than I know what to do with, and I do have a small tractor with a tiller attachment, and building new attachments that don't need to use the PTO would be easy for me if need be. I wouldn't consider myself a gardener, but the stuff that I've grown in the past (non-food) has done well. I have this annoying habit of immersing myself in something and learning everything I can about it, whether it be law or farming.

    Now then, here is my understanding of heirloom crops: They don't deal with pesticides as well as modern varieties of corn, yet are more resistant to bugs than the modern varieties are without pesticides. Yields per acre are not as high as modern varieties in most instances. In other words, you don't get as much, but you don't need to rely on a large industrial base to reliably grow the stuff. Is this correct? Also, is there anything that I'll have to look out for that I wouldn't have to with the more modern varieties? I understand that if I want to build up a seed base, I either need to separate the different varieties either by distance, or by time, and it stays warm long enough here for me to use time.

    Other things I am going to/want to grow:

    Beans and squash. I'll probably do regular pintos, Hopi black pintos and Anasazis. (Hey, I'm from NM, beans, corn and squash were pretty much staple food for people before Europeans got here.)
    NM varieties of chiles (Again, I'm from NM. We put the stuff on or in EVERYTHING. Including spaghetti sauce and pizza. And it's good.)
    NM Mellons. This is an experiment. The Alameda Pueblo cultivated them. I'm less than 1/2 mile from Alameda Blvd. That road was named after the Pueblo that it went through. I think it'll grow here, and besides, I already have the seeds.
    Tomatoes. I hate them fresh, as in whatever gets broken down when they get cooked is something that actually makes me ill, but I do like tomato sauces.
    Onions. What can I say? I like'em.
    Garlic. I love garlic. I know, they're supposed to be planted in the fall. Maybe I missed the boat for this year. But I still love me some garlic.
    Potatoes. I like those too.
  2. daveomak

    daveomak Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    You are in for one monstrous task making the corn edible...  Lime treatment, drying, grinding....

    As far as garlic goes, here is where I got my seed stock...  These guys are neighbors of mine and great folks...   The hardneck variety should grow well in your area, altitude and cold winters it should do well...  I grow only the 4-8 clove varieties so I can have big cloves...  It has great flavor...   we dry it in the dehydrator after slicing thin in a food processor and vac pack....   also break into cloves and vac pack and freeze..  when sliced and dried, the flavor is powerful....

    Most veggies can be dried and stored almost forever....    Dave
  3. garand555

    garand555 Smoke Blower

    It's no more work than when I smoke something when you include the labor that I've put into getting the wood. I don't have to do it all at once. I can dry the corn, store it, and then make the posole/masa one batch at a time as I need. That's how I tend to do a lot of food tasks with foods that can be stored, but would require a lot of work up front to process if I did it all at once. Peeling, chopping and bagging 120 lbs of green chile is a monstrous task, which is why I just freeze it and peel and chop it a lb at a time. I have been known to go through a 40lb sack by myself in a year, and when you include other people who eat around here, 80-120lbs is not an unreasonable amount for me to get or grow.
  4. Monsanto will be watching you......very closely.
  5. All you'll need to know can't be summed up in a forum post.

    Pick up a good book on organic gardening.
    Eliot Coleman's "New Organic Grower" is one of the best.

    The amount you want to grown is easily doable.

    There are many heirloom flour corn cultivars, you'll just have to try several and see what works best for you.
    I would definite go with a large kerneled variety for what you want to do,

    Last edited: Jan 16, 2013
  6. garand555

    garand555 Smoke Blower

    Thanks Martin. I've purchased seeds from before, though, except for the NM Mellon, they weren't seeds for food. Some of their stuff is a bit pricey, but it's also stuff that is not very common. All in all, I think they're a decent company to deal with. I really like the fact that I can get stuff that was originally cultivated right where I am. At least for this summer, I'm planning on dedicating about 1/8th of an acre to growing. More if food prices going up causes bank reserves to leak into the commodities market, further driving rising prices. I should be able to plant in April, and, while it can get cold here in October, it normally waits until about November to get cold.
  7. FWIW, Painted Mountain is a corn variety that can take a lot of abuse.
    Not an heirloom, but an 'improved heirloom', bred from heirloom varieties.

  8. garand555

    garand555 Smoke Blower

    I'll take a look at that. Part of the reason that I want to try heirloom is to experience the flavors that the people who lived around here a couple hundred years ago did. If the Painted Mountain corn gives me that, I'm fine with it. I'm not even opposed to GMO foods simply because we're getting to the point to where there will be a lot more starvation around the world without it. I just get so tired of nothing but yellow hybrid or gmo corn all the time and want to experience something different and distinct. I'm hoping that it'll be like my first experience actually bbqing something, where I had only been exposed to local 'que joints in the past, then the first time that butt came out of my smoker, WOW! I didn't know what I was missing.
  9. garand555

    garand555 Smoke Blower

    Tried the painted mountain corn. It did great until one of those stupid heat waves hit last month. It's supposed to do well in heat, but it did not like 107f very much. The Navajo Blue Corn right next to it got slightly stressed, but a good chunk of the painted mountain died. Despite that, even the dieing stalks were trying to put out 2 cobs each. It seems like it is very tough with the exception of sustained triple digit temps with sustained single digit relative humidities. I'm still going to get some corn out of it, but probably 1/4/ 1/2 of what I would have otherwise gotten. The heat plus the NM sun can just be brutal. Had I known ahead of time, I would have put a shade cloth over it.

    I also decided to try some sonoran tepary beans in with the navajo blue corn. Something stressed all of my beans, but they made a comeback and now there are some little pods on all of them. I've never tried them before, so it'll be interesting. My only guesses on what stressed them was the PH of the soil and the hard pan layer that it seems that roots have finally pierced down to the sand layer. I have very alkaline soil that will take a few years to amend properly and I pummeled that hard pan for days with only partial success. The green chile sure likes it though.

    I've grown stuff before, but going this scale is forcing me to learn a lot. I'm enjoying it though. I'm starting to understand why one of my older friends says "I love to grow stuff."
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2013
  10. daveomak

    daveomak Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    garand, morning......   I replanted Bodacious corn this year....  Had a cold snap....   froze the corn....   At least I had time to replant...  Those high temps are hard on veggies...  

  11. kathrynn

    kathrynn Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    My Amish "pencil cob corn" is beautiful right now.  Hasn't tasseled yet....but its growing.  My hubby's grandfather used to have a huge garden and could never grow this kind of corn.  Mine has done well so far.  Love Silver Queen tho.

    Here is a pic as of yesterday.

  12. garand555

    garand555 Smoke Blower

    Yeah they are. A lot of the more local varieties of veggies that I'm growing are handling it better though. One thing that I'm finding is that if it is a plant that is grown in, say, the northeast, I can grow it in an area that gets half shade even if it says full sun. The NM sun is pretty intense. I think that I'm going to save seeds from the plants that handled it the best for planting next year, and try a few more local varieties of stuff next year.
  13. garand555

    garand555 Smoke Blower

    That's some nice looking stuff. The only corn that I have that looks that nice is a small block of sweet corn that was planted towards the end of the heat wave. At least the Blue Corn was stressed early on and had a chance to recover. It's tasseled and I'm starting to see a few silks. The Painted Mountain was stressed just as it was tasseling. Of the plants that stood up to the torture, there should be some cobs in the milk phase in the next 7-10 days, and plenty of baby corn on dead stalks.

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