Corn: A Colorful and Nutrient Dense Heritage from Central and South America

Corn is one of those vegetables that I struggle with. I have always enjoyed sweet corn, but when starting to eat healthier, discovered that there is some question about whether corn is healthy to eat. It is high in carbs and high in fiber, and does have some good vitamins and minerals. But, I’ve been reading, as we have bred our vegetables to be sweeter and sweeter, we have also inadvertently bred out some of the nutritional value. 

When we became gluten free, corn flour became a new pantry staple. And then came the debate over genetically modified foods. Most corn products on the grocery store shelves come from genetically modified corn, which regardless of your thoughts on genetic manipulation, exposes us to glyphosate, an herbicide with known health risks. 

What are we going to do about corn? We have started buying corn products that are organic to avoid the genetic modification and the pesticide and herbicide exposure, but it is still just standard yellow corn, with an occasional blue corn tortilla chip. The world of corn is so much bigger. So, I went back to the seed catalogues seeking GMO free corn seed with more color and more nutrient value. This years garden is getting to be quite an adventure in diversity and variety.

There are so many varieties of beautiful corn. Purple, green, red, blue, pink, black, multicolored and orange.Not only are they beautiful, they are often higher in protein and other nutrients than their yellow and white counterparts. Some of the corn stalks will grow 12 feet tall. Some only 4 ft tall. Some will grow better in the north, others in the south. Often these varieties can’t be grown well by huge agribusiness farms, so if you want them, you will have to grow them, or find them at a farm market.

Because I want to grow corn for my animals as well as my family this year, I am going to grow small plots of several varieties, all inside my fenced in orchard to protect the corn from the heavy deer pressure we suffered in our garden last season. It probably won’t meet all our needs, but I have never really grown corn well before, so I am starting small. I am also going for colorful varieties. Look for future posts to learn about what nutrients are indicated by the color of your foods.

Oaxacan Green corn 

Unfortunately, around here its not too easy to find gmo free seed of any kind of corn much less the interesting colorful ones, so I am back in my seed catalogs. 

Bloody Butcher corn 

These are some seeds I bought a few years ago that never got planted. This year I plan to plant them with a few other varieties as well and expand our diet with some colorful tortillas, tamales, and cornbread, maybe even some blue corn on the cob.

Wade’s Giant Indian Corn 

This seed originates from a nursery in Michigan. Since we live in Michigan, I am hoping for great success especially with this variety. 

I also hope to plant one of the blue corn varieties, and maybe a pink and orange corn also. It is so hard to choose. 

I am looking for recipes on making my own masa, and ideas for what to make with my colorful corn. If you have some thoughts, I would love to hear them in the comment section below.

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