Heirloom Corn - Grow Non-Hybrid Varieties

Traditional non-hybrid heritage corn varieties are becoming scarce in Australia. Neville and Sophia Donovan at Greenpatch Organic Seeds have set up the Corn/Maize Project 2 years ago with the objective to collect non-hybrid heritage varieties that are still grown in Australia.
 
The aim of the project during the next few years is to prevent the loss of heritage corn varieties, grow them out and re-distribute throughout Australia to gardeners and farmers. 
 
Sweet Corn – Anasazi (Zea mays)
Photo by Carl Bayer
 
An amazing ancient multi coloured sweet corn that grows to just 2 metres high, has delicious thick sweet cobs that mature in 90 days.  The brilliantly coloured kernels vary from yellow, red, burgundy and blue.  When the cobs are dried the colours intensify greatly. This easily grown, hardy, non hybrid variety has a good balance of sugars, starch and minerals, and is delicious eaten raw or cooked.
 
Grown by the Anasazi Indians in the American southwest, between 100 BC to 1300 AD, the heirloom rare corn is thought to have been found by archaeologists in the Anasazi ruins.
This variety forms part of our exciting new Corn/Maize project that was initiated in 2013 at Greenpatch.
 
These heirlooms are genetically diverse and have wonderful attributes such as superb flavour, good nutrition, adapt to a range of weather conditions and a variety of soils, they are a reliable food source.
 
 
Blue Mini Popcorn(Zea Mays)
 
One of the first success stories in the Corn/Maize Project Blue Mini Pop corn is thought to be one of the best heirloom popping varieties producing large dark blue coloured cobs. Seed was supplied to us from a gardener who didn't want this variety to become part of history and grown out by a dedicated organic farmer in Lilian Rock, NSW.
 
Blue Mini Popcorn is a highly sought after heirloom popcorn variety. Growing to 1.5m they will not take up to much room in your garden. Pop's extremely well. A fast grower 90 days to maturity harvesting your own popcorn is a reality. Sow Spring-Summer in fertile well drained soil direct in the garden. You can also save your own seed to continue to grow this variety at home and sharing the seed with your friends. The re-distribution of these varieties is up to organic gardeners to share the seed around.
 
 
Maize - Manning White ( Zea mays)
Photo By Carl Bayer
A almost forgotten variety that has been grown in the Manning valley, NSW since the early 1900's. This was once a popular grain crop for local dairy farmers but since the introduction of hybrid's and competition in the dairy industry it is deemed cheaper to buy in grain seed supporting the
 
 
monoculture crops that are the mainstream in todays modern agriculture.
 
A local farmer has continued to save seed from this variety despite the change that has happened in the industry allowing us to grow it on. The seed was extremely close to being 'pure' but some selecting over the next few years will wein out the rogue variations.
 
Manning White is a tall grower to 3 metres, producing 1 large cob of white corn. Despite it being a maize variety it can be eaten fresh when young or used as animal feed.
 
 
Basic Tips For Growing Corn
 
Soil – prefers fertile well prepared nourished soil as they are heavy feeders. Poultry manure or green manure crops can help with corn as they need high nitrogen levels to do well. The plants need to be constantly moist during the growing season for optimum growth.
 
Spacing – Popcorn 30 cm apart, Sweet Corn & Maize 40-50 cm apart.  Best grown in block plantings for good pollination.  Minimum of 4 rows suggested approx. 100 plants minimum to maintain genetic diversity. Home gardeners can get away with 20 plants just for eating purposes.
 
Pollination & Purity - Two corn varieties growing at the same time can crop causing the seed you save to no longer be 'pure'. Corn is pollinated by wind and bees so isolation by up to 2 km is important to maintain purity.  Plant in blocks for best pollination.
 
Harvest – Depending on the variety it may take up to 3-5 months before corn is ready. For eating corn fresh harvest when the silk is young and coloured.  The cob should have filled out. It is an art picking the right time to harvest sweet corns and it is a skill you will learn with time. Harvesting to early or to late can make the cob taste starchy or immature.
 
Below Image is the perfect harvest stage of heirloom sweet corns.
For saving seeds the plants will start to die off and look yellow in the leaves.  The silk and the tassel will look brown.  A way of checking on the cob’s maturity is to pull back the top outside sheath a little and see if the kernels have started to dimple.  If the weather is dry and sunny allow kernels to dry fully on the plants.  Harvest cobs and spread on plastic in a sheltered airy undercover environment.  Remove sheaths fully and allow corn to dry for 3-4 weeks.  The kernels should be able to come off the cob freely at this stage.    

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