Friday, September 30, 2011

Zea Mays

Zea Mays. It’s such a beautiful name. It comforts me that the Latin name sounds a little bit like the Italian word for Auntie – Zia. It’s the backbone of industrial agriculture in this country. It’s also one of the true joys of summer for me. Corn.

The variety we grew this year is a Oaxacan green dent - far from an industrial agriculture breed. In fact, there will be little capital gain from this crop... We purchased the seeds from Seed Savers, a fantastic non-profit devoted to saving heirloom seed stock and connecting people who are passionate about preserving our shared plant heritage. The Corn grew to thirteen feet + in 2 months. One of my favorite things to do this past August was to sit amongst the plants on a windy day and listen to the rustle of the leaves.

One of the best parts of harvesting the corn was to shuck it. Each ear revealed dazzling colors of jewel-like quality. Perhaps that sounds cliché, but I had never expected the wide spectrum of iridescent green, purple and blue with yellows and golds occasionally mixed in. Our aspiration is to dry the corn and mill it into flour for use in making tortillas, tamales or corn bread. It’s a lot of labor to do so, and I am grateful for the option to have this project be a project and not survival. That said, I truly enjoy the process of learning about how to grow plants and then how to prepare them in traditional ways. I believe it helps to connect me to my forebears, and to the community of people like me who care deeply about the quality and the stories of food. That time to process and make special foods is precious and rare for me these days. But when I can get it, I always feel refreshed. 

The following photos are from the Harvest this year....

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