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Gardening Articles: Edibles :: Vegetables

Cooking and Storing Corn (page 4 of 5)

by National Gardening Association Editors

Corn for Grinding

Some gardeners are becoming interested in growing corn for grinding, especially in the case of some of the unusual blue- and red-kerneled Native American varieties. You can actually dry and grind any late-season variety -- field, flint, sweet and even popcorn can be ground into cornmeal or flour. However, because of its hard starch, flint corn grinds beautifully, so it's preferred by most folks. No matter what variety you choose, leave the ears on the stalk until after the first fall frost to give the kernels a chance to mature and harden completely. Gardeners who live in areas with relatively snowless winters can leave the corn standing in the field all winter. Although you can dry corn this way, it's better to harvest the crop and dry it away from hungry birds. Wet winter weather can also lead to mold.

Harvest the ears, remove the husks and place the ears in mesh bags. Or, if you prefer, braid or tie the husks together. Then hang the corn in a cool, dry place for several months to dry. You can leave the kernels on the cobs until you're ready to grind them, or shell the dry kernels and store them in airtight containers in a dry place.

Use a hand-cranked or electric grain mill to grind corn. Grind it as you need it, so it will have the fullest flavor and the most nutrition. Depending on how coarsely you grind the kernels, you can enjoy cracked corn for a delicious hot cereal or finer cornmeal for breads and hot cakes. Ground corn will be yellow, white or even blue, according to the variety grown. Corn flour is made by stone-grinding the kernels to a fine powder; this flour can be used in baking. The thickening agent, cornstarch, is made commercially by a special wet-milling process that removes the hull before grinding.

A note on corn cobs: If you like to smoke meat or fish, corn cobs left from the kernels you've dried and ground work beautifully and impart a wonderful flavor. Chop or shred the cobs for the best results. Cobs left over from sweet corn roasts won't work because the cobs have to mature and dry thoroughly.

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