Just planted 12 Painted Indian Corn seedlings along with 78 Bolita Bean seeds.
The photograph shows the block of corn, which are wind pollinated, and the indentation of the Bolita Beans planted down the center and along each side. The corn is 6-8 inches tall, and needs to have a head start on the beans.
I have had 3 days of light rain, and this is a good time to plant, the bed is thoroughly moist. The photo above shows a light mulch of pine needles to help slow evaporation this week with no rain promised. I did not mulch heavily because the beans are not sprouted. In a week or two I will plant a squash on each end, when it is warm enough at night.
This is the traditional Three Sisters planting followed by First Americans in much of North America. Modified by space constraints, the entire planting will have 24 corn plants, 156 bean plants, and 2 squash plants. Not a huge crop, but planting only for myself this year.
This particular version of Indian Corn was bred in the Rocky Mountains and believed to be the shortest season corn. I purchased the seed from an individual growing it at over 5000 feet in the Rocky Mountains, it is at least predisposed to do well here in the New Mexico mountains at over 7000 feet.
Painted Indian Corn is a flint corn, so it has a thicker skin than dent corn. It can be popped for popcorn, nixtamalized for hominy and tortillas or dried and ground for corn meal. You can eat the fresh corn roasted and sprinkled with red chili powder just like street vendors sell in Mexico. If I get a big crop I will certainly build a fire out back and roast ears of corn. Wishful thinking!
This is not a sweet corn on the cob so much as it is long term storage corn that got First Americans living in the mountains through long, hard winters. I will plant a block of corn in the ground as well, waiting for monsoon season, but not sure whether it will be successful and escape predation.
My Painted Indian Corn kernels came in all colors and I did my best to plant every color. There are versions that are all one color, notably white, yellow, blue, and red. I find the single colors attractive, but they have fewer phytonutrients than the mixed variety.
The most important factor is in keeping all the kernels is for a diverse genetic makeup to help in working toward a landrace variety that is picked solely for its ability to survive or thrive under my specific local conditions without supplemental watering. In harsher climates, this can make the difference between survival or not.
Painted Indian Corn, Rocky Mountain version, is cold tolerant, a serious issue with modern sweet corns that do not produce in my short season with its cold nights. Painted Indian Corn is also drought tolerant, and that is critical if I am to produce a landrace corn for my property. In pursuit of landrace Painted Corn, I will plant seed directly in the ground just before monsoon season starts. I will not water them. If I get even one ear of corn and seed for next year, I will count it a success. For backup, I will have my tended corn, which has a higher likelihood of sufficient production for food next winter, both for nutrition and bulk calories. As hard as it is to credit… the projection is that my 24 kernels of Painted Indian Corn input will yield 12000 to 14000 kernels. Also known as 48 to 72 ears. Counting kernels sounds a lot more impressive.
Plan A is to nixtamalize the kernels and use them as hominy for my favorite Mexican soup, Posole. If I get a good crop, some will become corn tortillas. I learned to make fresh tortillas every day when I was young, and hope I haven’t lost the skill. Not to forget cornbread or using the kernels in soups. I do hope my final crop is more than 24 plants! A lot of critter competition around here, we’ll see how that goes. I have no concerns about how to cook corn into delicious meals!
We can run to the store if disaster strikes our garden, but people have not always had that luxury. Their successful seedlines had to withstand everything nature threw at them, and were bred for each person’s microclimate.
When I increase the number of 24 inch raised beds, I will increase the amount and variety of food grown in my potager garden sitting in the middle of my food forest.
I surrounded the corn with a small nonaggressive bean variety. The Painted Indian Corn will get about 5-6 feet tall and is sturdy. I will use blue speckled tepary beans around my other planting.
This bed isn’t full to the end, and I expect to plant another 12 Painted Indian Corn plants with their attendant Bolita Beans as soon as I finish filling this raised hugelkultur bed.