Maize, as corn was originally called, has been cultivated for over 10,000 years by Native Americans in the Central America. It later spread via Native American migration south to Argentina and north to what we now refer to as the American South. We choose to work with landrace varieties of maize, varieties that are still semi-wild, with the belief that they will once again be allowed to evolve, adapt, and express the many terroir of our region, from the mountains to the sea. The original native varieties were of the “flour corn” family, though as it migrated, “flint corn” and “dent corn” were also born.
Though all field corn is relatively hard as compared to other grains, Flour Corn is the softest. Its tenderness and starchiness has been utilized by native peoples to make skillet flatbreads, which were nixtamalized by cooking with wood ash, flattened by hand and then baked over an open fire. This practice would later be referred to as producing a tortilla from fresh masa.
Flint corn was the second main family of corn to evolve. Flint corn is by nature brittle and “flinty.” Due to this characteristic, it formed the foundation of polenta culture after maize migrated to Europe. The growing season for flint corn is much shorter than other types and so it has been the maize of choice in mountainous regions around the world, producing a crop in their limited agricultural season. It mills into a coarse sandy texture which can absorb a high ratio of water, hence creating polenta that is creamy without becoming starchy and gummy.
Dent corn last and is the family that gave birth to most modern tortilla preparation in Central America and to the cuisine of the American South, with its emphasis on grits. Dent corn, named such because each kernel is dented on its top, is softer than flint corn, thus milling best into coarse cracked particles, ie grits. Dent corn proved to ultimately be more productive than the flour or flint varieties, which led to its proliferation over the past few hundred years.
All of these varieties, when landraces, are extremely adaptable and hence can express terroir as they migrate and evolve through different geographical locations and cultures. Today one can find many thousands of varieties around the world that are uniquely adapted to their microclimates. We are actively encouraging the birth of new varieties on our farms, a guided evolution where nature is allowed to take its course in the field.