Painted Mountain flour corn, seed gifted generously from Mike. Riffing off my last post: One cup medium-fine corn meal in four cups boiling water equals polenta; one cup medium corn meal plus three cups boiling water equals grits. See how easy this all is?
One of the things most surprising to those considering a “local” diet is how truly dependent their normal diet is upon flour. Though flour can be made of any grain, it’s wheat we Westerners are terribly dependent upon…surely there’s a way to grow one’s own?
I suppose there is; in point of fact, on commercial farms, spring wheat and regular rye are commonly grown between vegetable rows where I live (the wheat grows quickly, and its roots hold down the soil between the plastic-mulched crops of tomatoes, peppers, squash, etc.). But wheat is not the normal commodity crop ’round here (ugh, we plow down our vineyards and orchards to grow corn and soy with shocking regularly here because–get this–we can’t find enough people to pick the grapes and fruit! sigh; this is a staggeringly sad factoid in a state with chronically high unemployment). I’ve tried my hand growing hull-less oats and rye and buckwheat; all grew. Dang, though, you need LOTS of grain to feed your own humble self. My grains simply aren’t grown at that scale.
Child amongst the dent corn, August 2010.
However. I do grow corn. Armed with a handful of seeds in spring and with a $20 corn grinder in winter, whammo: I am self-sufficient in dried corn and corn flour.
Can I just say there is NO good way to photograph this thing in action, at least not by me, not in this kitchen. It is a corn grinder, and I do not lie that it cost $20 plus shipping: do the googles or the amazon to find it your own self: I got the one with the deeper hopper. BE WARNED it is not good if you’re looking to grind your own wheat flour: it’s great, though, if you just want cornmeal on occasion, or wish to crack some corn for your chickens.
I grow dent corn, flint corn, and popcorn. (I don’t grow sweet corn; it’s too easily had locally to make it worth my while.) All can be ground; all make a decent flour. Southern Exposure Seed Exchange both offers all kinds of corn AND gives a whiz-bang what-for lesson of which type is used for what: go see for yourself. And because I am a fool for polenta, I bought a packet of SESE’s Floriani polenta-specific corn to try this year.
This cheap thing is great for home use. After about five passes, the meal is perfect for a good polenta; after four, it makes great grits…and I’ve used it for bean flours (garbanzo, black turtle) too to good effect. Oh, and I’ve ground up rice in it too: rice mush makes a great breakfast!
Give corn-growing a try this year, or, barring that, use your muscles and grind your own. Trust me, the taste of freshly-ground corn is worth the turn!