I have to pause in my cow stories to tell you a little bit about a similar creature. Like cows, this one does not exist outside of human influence. It depends on humans to raise it, generation after generation. A feisty goat herd turned loose to fend for itself could conceivably survive many decades—or indefinitely—without human interference. The plants in T-bone’s Forest of Kale have set seed and started another generation of vigorous kale without any help from me.
Corn, on the other hand, is closely interlinked with humans. Sure, there is some serious co-dependence going on, but I don’t think corn is to blame for its reputation as agribusiness anti-hero. The beautiful open-pollinated varieties I grow are good food. As a major crop developed by plant breeders in pre-Columbian North America, corn was bred by people without metal tools and without draft animals. This makes it the easiest grain to cultivate on a home scale. Corn is rightly called a building block of civilization. Remember, I’m not talking about plowed-under prairie for mile upon mile of Monsanto-drenched stalks. I’m talking about my backyard plot of Cascade Ruby-Gold, a variety of flint corn developed by rock-star Oregon plant breeder Carol Deppe.
We have two five-gallon buckets of Cascade Ruby-Gold kernels. T-bone and I planted it on June 1, 2016, a trifle later than I would have liked. It still matured a generous crop. Less than a pound of planting seed became about 50 pounds! That’s return on investment. Each of our buckets will last us at least a month of generous cornbread, tiding us over during the “hunger gap” in late spring when our potatoes and squash have dwindled, but the garden produce doesn’t provide many calories yet.
Love your corn. Grow your corn. The best way to honor the tremendous legacy of plants teaming up with humans (what Carol Deppe calls the “Grand Alliance”) is to spend time with the plants themselves.
The net is full of “Lavender Mandan” flour corn. Starchier than flint corn, it’s easier to grind and also puffs up into better-then-corn-nut snacks when toasted in a hot skillet.