Painted Mountain Corn
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Painted Mountain corn cobs are multi-colored and slim measuring 15 to 18 centimeters long. The smooth, round kernels come in shades of purple, blue, yellow, white, and maroon. Young cobs at the ‘milk stage’ have white and yellow kernels that offer a semi-sweet, true corn flavor. Mature cobs reveal a multitude of colorful patterns, from all red jewel tones to a mix of yellows, blues, and browns. Dried kernels have thin seed coats and grind to a fine, soft, flour starch.
Painted Mountain corn is available in the late summer and fall.
Painted Mountain corn is an early maturing, colorful variety of flour corn. The variety was developed from heirloom cultivars and is an open-pollinated, sustainable variety. Botanically classified as Zea mays var. amylacea, Painted Mountain corn was developed for the its use as a food source and not merely for ornamental purposes. Painted Mountain corn is considered highly adaptable and is one of the most genetically diverse varieties available to breeders today.
Painted Mountain corn is high in protein and carbohydrates, and contains the minerals phosphorus, potassium and magnesium. It also contains a good amount of fiber and smaller amounts of folate, vitamin A, and B-complex vitamins. The richly colored red, blue and purple kernels contain anthocyanin, an important antioxidant.
Young Painted Mountain corn can be roasted, boiled or cut from the cob and eaten like sweet corn. The mature, colorful cobs of Painted Mountain corn are often dried and used for ornamental purposes. The dry kernels can be ground into meal or flour using a grain mill or mortar and pestle. Painted Mountain corn produces a fine, soft flour starch ideal for baking muffins and bread. When used for baking, the blue kernels give the corn flour a bluish tint. Dried kernels can also be soaked in slack lime and wet-ground for masa or boiled to make hominy. The flour corn variety is also ideal for making ‘parching corn’. Store fresh, unhusked Painted Mountain corn in the refrigerator for up to a week. Dried cobs will store for up to a year in a cool, dry environment.
Painted Mountain corn is a grain type grown for making corn flour. Historically, flour corn was also grown and used for parching. Parched corn was consumed as a snack during early colonial times and was made by homesteaders in the American mid-west and northern territories as a trail snack and survival food. Dried kernels are heated over a hot, dry skillet until the seed coats splits and the kernel softens. They are cooled and can be stored for months at a time or tossed in a light drizzle of oil and salted to taste.
Painted Mountain corn was developed in Montana during the 1970s by a grower named Dave Christensen. He collected hundreds of different native heirloom varieties and began a selective hand-crossed breeding process to come up with a good tasting variety that could grow in harsh conditions. He focused on varieties planted by the Native American tribes and colonial homesteaders of his native Montana, where the elevation tops 5000 feet and the environment demands extreme hardiness. Painted Mountain corn is well-suited for cooler, more temperate climates with shorter growing seasons. In warmer climates it will be an early season crop. Painted Mountain corn is not widely available and is most likely spotted at farmer’s markets and in home gardens.