Corn, or zea mays is indigenous to South America, but its been a staple of the aboriginal natives here in what is now the US long enough for it to have migrated all the way up here, to Maine, because when the first colonists arrived from Europe, they were gifted this amazing grass.
I've tried, over the years, to grow corn many times, and, typically, I have a lot of huge, gorgeous corn stalks, and not so many ears. I've always thought I just couldn't really grown corn, that I don't have enough space.
Several years ago, I decided to give up on sweet corn. When I can get as much as I need at the farm stand for a few dollars, it just made more sense to grow higher cost vegetables here and buy the corn. Two years ago, looking through the Johnny Seed catalog, I found information for field corn. The description said it could be "ornamental, ground into corn meal or popped." Really? I could grow popcorn? I LOVE popcorn!
The first year I tried it, I got it into the ground rather late in the season. So, when I peeled back the husks in the fall, and I found ill-formed, mostly green, diminuitive ears, I tossed them in the compost pile and figured it was a wash.
The next year, I decided to plant a Three Sisters "bucket" garden. Again, I had some beautiful stalks. I left the ears on the stalks in the buckets until really late in the season - probably November. Like the first year, the ears were really tiny, and it looked like the kernels hadn't properly formed again. So, I harvested all of it and put it in a wooden 1/2 bushel basket until I figured out what I was going to do with them.
One day, after watching the squirrels outside, I decided I'd give them the ears, and I started shucking them. Then, I took a very good, very close look at the ears, and then, I twisted off a few of the kernels.
Popcorn! It was popcorn! Blue popcorn!
Over the years, I've seen a lot of recommendations regarding what and how much to store. Some of the advice, I felt, was good advice. Some, however, always left me wondering, "... and then what?"
I mean, I could store 400 lbs of wheat berries in food grade plastic buckets with gamma locking lids. I could, but unless it's something that my family eats regularly, it doesn't make a lot of sense to store it.
I could store nundreds of cans of stuff I bought from the grocery store. I could, but when those stored cans get used up ... and they will ... if there's no grocery store for me to buy more cans, my family is going to be pretty hungry.
For me, the most logical response is to store things that I can grow, or to which I have access in my local food shed. Wheat has, in the past, been grown in Maine. Unfortunately, Maine grown wheat isn't as widely available, especially here in the southern part of the State, as, perhaps, it once was, and I can't grow enough wheat for it to be worth my while. I can, however, grow popcorn, and like wheat berries, kernel corn is fairly versatile.
I have a grinder, and so I can grind up the corn to make corn meal, which can be made into bread (and I have found some wheat-free corn bread recipes) or boiled and made into a porridge (polenta is boiled ground corn). Corn can also be sprouted, just like wheat. I can even make it into corn cakes or corn chips.
Unlike wheat, however, corn can be poppped and made into my absolute favorite snack. In fact, I eat popcorn for breakfast sometimes, and why not?
If I had a surplus of corn, I could make whiskey ... or fuel ;).
Healthwise, corn may be a much better choice for an increasingly larger portion of the population than wheat. There is a very large body of research to suggest that wheat may not be as healthy for us as we have come to believe, and an even larger body of research to suggest that, perhaps, there is some not insignificant portion of our population that, literally, can not stomach wheat, who have symptoms ranging from body aches (often misdiagnosed as "fibromyalgia") and fatigue to depression to severe abdominal symptoms (with some evidence to suggest that Crohn's disease is the result of long-term exposure to gluten by someone who is allergic).
Of course, for me, the absolute best reason to turn away from wheat to corn is that I can grow corn and with a Three Sisters configuration, I can grow enough corn, beans and squash (180 lbs last year ;) to get us through a Maine winter, and really, while the food may get boring, corn and squash and beans are much more versatile and exciting than 400 lbs of wheat berries.
What one chooses to put in one's pantry will depend on where one lives, but there should be something that is currently enjoyed by one's family and that can be easily replaced as it's used up, and there should be a lot of it.
To help get you started on figuring out what and how to store food, today I am offering a copy of Sharon Astyk's Independence Days. If you're interested in being entered into the drawing to win Sharon's book, please leave a comment. The winner will be announced on March 8. Good Luck!
AND THE WINNER IS ...The winner of the magnesium firestarter is FARFetched. Congratulations :). Please leave a comment with the address to which you would like your firestarter mailed. Comments are moderated, and I won't post your address.