We grow a lot of flint corn for both eating and for feeding animals. It’s my favorite type of corn due to its unique nutrition profile, shelf life, and adaptation to northern areas.
Flint Corn is highly edible. It’s higher in fiber and protein than modern field corn and lasts better in storage. It’s usually ground into a meal or flour. Dry kernels can be roasted or the ears cooked and eaten when the plant is still green. Flint corn is a traditional North American food crop.
What exactly is flint corn, what to do with it, and how does it compare against modern corn? Let’s dive in.
What exactly is Flint Corn?
Flint corn is a type of corn with a very hard, thick outer layer on the kernel. The hard layer gives each kernel a round appearance. It was developed by Native Americans as they selected seeds from early-maturing plants. Most flint corn is a smaller plant with smaller, colorful ears.
Flint corn is just corn. A darn tasty one too. It’s been grown as a food crop for at least 500 years. I actually enjoy eating it on the cob, boiled and buttered like sweet corn. If you pick it at the right stage, it’s nice and sweet.
Flint Corn is the corn grown by most native tribes of North America. It came about purely by chance. Native farmers collected seeds from plants that did better in their area. The smaller plants matured faster in the northern climate than the large, older type dent corns more popular in the south.
A lot of corn was intended to be picked and stored dry. The shorter summers of the north meant that a late-maturing crop may not dry fully and go bad. Flint corn includes so-called Indian Corn and all popcorn. Most flint corn has smaller kernels.
What Does Flint Corn Taste Like?
Flint corn has a variety of flavors but tends to have more of a pronounced nutty flavor. When ground, it has a bit more of a gritty texture and a fuller flavor than what you can buy in the store. When roasted, it takes on a deep, full flavor that’s much tastier than any other corn.
The only issue with flint corn is that if it’s dry, it has to be either ground or roasted to be eaten decently. Roasting, also called parching corn, is just thoroughly browning dry kernels until they crack open. it weakens the shell and makes it more suitable for chewing. It still can be pretty tough though.
I prefer to grind dry kernels into a meal. Lately, I’ve been just using my wife’s blender to pulverize a cup of dry kernels. It doesn’t get it as nice as a quality grinder, but the grits and cornbread are really good. Flint cornmeal can take just a bit longer to cook than store-bought cornmeal.
Especially if you don’t grind it all really fine. Just let it soak or simmer in the water until it’s nice and smooth. I much prefer eating it green. when the ears are full, just about when the silks are all brown, that’s when it’s best!
It tastes similar to sweet corn, but with a lot more nutrition (sweet corn is mostly water). So far, everyone who’s tried it actually likes it that way.
Tips for Growing Flint Corn
Flint corn needs a lot of Nitrogen and Potassium to grow well. It also needs fairly high magnesium, calcium, and moderate phosphorus. Flint corn grows best in well-drained, high organic soil and in full sun. It generally needs around 30-inches of water in a season to grow well.
Flint corn can be grown like any corn. It uses the same nutrients at about the same rate as field corn. some growers say to calculate fertilizer based on standard field corn, then apply 85 percent of that through the season. One expert I know simply uses the full 100 percent.
That is, fertilizing just as a farmer would for a 200 bushel-yield field of corn. That depends on your soil. Corn uses an N-P-K ( pounds of Nitrogen-Phosphorus-Potassium) of about 200-100-170 per acre, plus or minus depending on your soil and what’s already in it.
For a 50-50 (2500 square feet) garden plot of corn, that’s about 12-pounds of Nitrogen, 6-pounds of Phosphorous, and 10-pounds of Potassium.
For 1,000 square feet, that’s about 5.5-pounds Nitrogen, 2.3-pounds Phosphorous, and 4-pounds Potassium.
A 10×10 corn plot will use 1/10th of that. For the average garden area with decent soil, these amounts would probably be fairly sufficient. If you have very sandy soil with little organic matter, clay, or silt, you may need 50 percent more added through the season.
If your soil is heavy clay, you can often use 25-30 percent less. In soil with a high organic level (really really black) like mine, I can get away with almost half that as long as I maintain smart tillage and crop rotation practices to reduce nutrient loss.
Tips for Harvesting Flint Corn
If you want shelled corn, lt flint corn dry on the stalk as long as possible before picking. If birds or other animals are eating the corn, you can pick it while there is still some green on the stalk, but you will need to let it dry either in full-sun, or in a hot place with good airflow.
last year, I grew a tall variety (14-foot tall stalks) and half of it blew down in a big wind storm. It didn’t die, but laying close to the ground didn’t help it to dry. I had a horrible time trying to dry out 10 bushels of whole ear corn, it won’t shell off the cob until it’s fully dry.
I dried some in the oven on low( about 125 degrees). I dried some on the roof of my car, but the birds were feasting on it. I did dry some inside my car. I figured since it got really hot, it could work as a dehydrator. As long as I kept 4 windows partly open, it worked alright and kept the birds away.
I’m going to try that again this year. I stacked ears of corn on the dashboard and in the rear window where the sub would be strongest. It seemed to work fine as long as I had enough ventilation.
Maybe this year I’ll try a scarecrow to see if it will keep the birds out of my corn though. I lost a good bit to the chickadees.
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