The Three Sisters garden is the perfect example of companion planting. The corn stalks support the beans, which fix nitrogen in the soil, and the big squash leaves grow in between the other two and provide a mulching effect. Plus, as food, they are perfect nutritional complements. Nutritionally and calorically, one could survive a harsh Maine winter on those three plants.
And from what I'm reading, people did.
So, I knew, when I started looking at the best bang-for-my-buck with regard to annuals to plant in my garden, that the Three Sisters would have a place. The only problem I had was the corn, and from the experiences I've had with sweet corn, I knew that wouldn't be what I would grow.
The first year I grew popcorn, I chose a small-earred blue corn. I read that field corn should be allowed to dry on the stalk, which is what I did, but when I harvested it, the ears were tiny and looked only half formed. I figured I had planted the seeds too late, and the blue corn experiment was a bust.
I pulled all of the ears off the stalks and dumped them in a wooden basket, and there they sat for the next two months. Then, in December, I decided I was going to separate the corn from the cobs and feed the corn kernels to the squirrels. As I worked, I realized that those kernels were perfect. They were popcorn - smaller than commercial popcorn, but they looked exactly the same. I decided to try popping some, and it worked!
I had grown popcorn!
And I've grown it every year since then.
This year I chose a red corn. It produced big, beautiful ears - two to three per stalk. I harvested a couple dozen, and I knew that I would, probably, be making most of it into cornmeal. I'm still learning about ways to use cornmeal, and my favorite way is to make polenta, which is, basically, corn mush. I also like to make "Johnny Cakes" and corn fritters. I especially like to make a southwestern-inspired chicken stew and serve corn fritters with it.
Corn was one of the featured ingredients in our harvest meal this year. Some time ago, I found a recipe for Indian Corn Pudding (which actually called for grits, but I decided to use my dried, ground corn). Basically, it's sweet corn mush. After I'd cooked it, I decided I wanted to see what it would be like baked. So, I divided it into muffin cups and baked it for an additional half hour until it was stiff.
The corn kernels had been very coarsely ground - only one pass through our food mill (some people see it and think "meat grinder", because that's what a lot of people use this mill for, but ours has several blades which allows us to use it to grind flour and nut butters, also) - and what was interesting was how much they puffed up during the cooking process.
Baked Indian Corn Pudding
I was pleased with the outcome, and there is more of the pudding left that wasn't baked. It will make a nice porridge, warmed on the woodstove and topped with a bit of cream, or some yummy fritters, fried in some hot oil.
I'm not much of a cook, really, but I'm also not afraid to try new things, which can be good ... or not, depending on whether or not one has to eat my concoctions. Mostly it turns out edible, and sometimes a new food will become a family favorite.
The corn pudding wasn't a huge hit, but as it was competing with several different kinds of pie, that's not surprising. In a few days, when the pie is gone, we'll pull out the corn pudding, again, and see how we like it, because I'm going to keep growing corn, and so we're going to keep eating it ... one way or another.