Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Review of Isola di Este

PI 433654 Nostrano dell' Isola di Este  from Sondrio, Italy

So in my search for the perfect polenta, I gave up trying corn here and instead used GRIN to order the most likely Italian corns.  First, Italy is much like California.  And Northern Italy is where people eat Polenta.  I think this is the 4th in a series of Italian corn.  I've had a lot of help from the corn curator for GRIN, Mark Millard.  Thanks Mark.   I originally planted this corn in 2011 and it was attacked by wild pigs.  I was only able to get enough of a crop to save seed to try again.   And it here it is, a beautiful golden/orange corn.
August 3, 2014
This is the field at harvest.

Planted Mar 27 to trays, Transplanted 4/13.  I estimated that it was 122 day corn.   I began harvesting on August 2.  As you can see about 90% is at the field dry stage.  I could have probably pulled this out of the field 15 days ago or earlier.  Remember, it's been hot, hot, hot here.  How hot?   In the 90's almost every day with very very little of our normal 4 days heat and 3 days fog.  Someone has stolen the fog.

August 3
This is a photo of the corn up close and personal at harvest.  This corn has the longest silks I have ever seen.  Almost every stalk made 2 ears, one large and one small to medium.  A large stalk is 12 inches and a small stalk is 8 inches.  The interesting thing is that most of the medium stalks were not long and thin, but short and with more rows.   This corn had beautiful tight wrappers.  Some of the best wrappers I have ever seen.  I'm talking fine enough to be tamale wrappers.  The cobs were held at about 3' and 4' from the ground.  The stalks themselves were about 7'.  Not too tall, not too short.  This may be the Goldilocks of all the flint corn I have grown.
June 23, 2014

This corn did not lodge.  Nope, not even one stalk.  Speaking of stalks, the only problem that I see with this corn is that it makes 1 1/2 stalks. Corn is the only major field crop characterized by separate male and female flowering structures, the tassel and ear, respectively. However, in most corn fields it is not unusual to find a few scattered plants with a combination tassel and ear in the same structure - a "tassel ear." The ear portion of this tassel ear structure usually contains only a limited number of kernels.  The "Good Tassel Ears appear as miniature corns"

The tassel ears often appear on tillers (suckers) arising from plants with normal ears and tassels. These tassel ears are produced at a terminal position on the tiller where a tassel would normally appear. However, tassel ears may also be produced by individual plants. This is what I call the 1/2 stalk.

Tassel ears are a reminder that the male and female parts of the corn plan are structurally very closely related. Wild progenitors of corn-teosinte spp. have complete flowers tassels and silks together. These can be crossed with Zea mays (normal corn).  I suspect this is a very old trait.  I have rarely seen this in my fields.  However, it is a trait I would select against.

Half stalk with Tassel Ear

Why?  They are so cute!  Take a close look, the dreaded Huitlacoche (corn smut) appeared on all but 2 of these tassel ears.  Why?  The tassel ears have no wrappers.  Wee little birds of the seed eating type come and peck these cute leeetle ears.  The corn sends out a damage report and huitlacoche steps in.  I don't like it, I don't have a market for it, and left uncontrolled can ruin an entire field in short order.  So, As these developed, I took a pair of loppers and walked through the maze of maize ad lopped them off.   All those years my dad made me take the tillers off of corn, maybe he was onto something?  Nope, just trying to keep these idle hands out of mischief.
left ear crossed with Kanga Pango.  Right ear is a tiller ear.

In future years, I would just keep removing the tillers of this corn.  I'm also not saving any seed from the tillers.  Which leads me to wonder what seed to save.
Of course I'll sort the out the corn with spotty germ, incomplete tip fill and probably ears that I think are too fat, plus anything that was crossed (only the very end row). These will all be ground for polenta.  All the very long thin perfect ears that dry quickly is what I'm aiming for. (1, 3 & 6 in this photo).

The corn borers are just beginning in this corn.  When I get corn borers, I get pink mold, so I'm in a rush to get this corn out of the field. 
Starting to get the hang of it.

The Isola di Este is in the foreground and the Kaanga Pango in the back ground.  We had a 90% germination on both.  The gophers took a couple so, we ended up with 84 plants.   These were placed on 18" emitters and I think that's a good choice for this corn.  This corn was not composted at planting, but side dressed on May 11th and given a shot of fish emulsion the week after planting.  
May 11th, 2014
Isola di Este as all our corn was irrigated to the standard of approximately 1 gallon per week.  The temperature throughout the season has been hot 90+ every day and the evening lows, around 59 F.   It's drier than Prohibition here, so I think this is another corn that would be great in a drought.  Now, we just have to wait for it to get dry enough to eat.

Once again, I'd like to thank the USDA GRIN program for the germplasm and particularly Mark Millard for his continuing support and encouragement of our search for drought tolerant flint and flour corns. Viva la Polenta!

Coming soon.  Photos of of the 3 toed Dar's Drought Tolerant, Isleta Pueblo Blue & Papago.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Review of Kaanga Pango Corn

I'm in the process of harvesting the Kaanga Pango Corn.  First, let me say that I know very little about this corn.

This is a heritage corn from NZ and was from the Wellington Seed Library.  I do not know what the Maori used this corn for.  The Maori historically used corn to making a fermented corn, they ate corn fresh, they make something that looks like a tamale, and they ate a pudding/mush from corn.
April 23 Foreground, Isola di Este, Kaanga Pango - near compost pile

It was estimated that Kaanga Pango was 110 days.

May 11, 2014 - Corn side dressed
I planted this corn on March 27, 2014 to flats.  It was transplanted to the field on 4/13/14.  As you can see the soil as already extremely dry and both corns are up and doing well.  I started 100 of each of these in the tray, at transplanting, there was approximately 85 of each.  The gophers ate a few and each plot ended up with 80 corn.  This field was not composted this year, but the corn was side dressed with compost and fertilized with fish emulsion and endo mychorrizae at planting.

June 15, 2014 Kaanga Pango Left, Isola di Este Right

By June 15, the Kaanga Pango was in full tassel.  The Isoa di Este had not tasseled at this point.
Kaanga Pango is about 6' tall.  It makes 3-4 tillers, and on the outside edges, each of these tillers made an additional corn.  These were planted on 18 inch centers, and by the looks of them, they could have used 24 or even 36" centers.  It's Leo's opinion that if I had planted them on 36 er's I would have yielded 4x as much corn.  For a not very tall corn, they are very broad.  The corn is held at about 2 1/2 feet above the ground.

July 13, 2015 Kaanga Pango & Papago Corn in the foreground
By July 13, the Kanga Pango was ready.  I left it in the field until Sunday, July 27.   All of this year's corn has been irrigated to the standard of approximately 1 gallon per week.  The temperature throughout the season has been hot 90+ every day and the evening lows, around 59 F.  We have not had our typical coastal fog once a week.  Leo noticed that due to it's tillering nature and the shade associated with that and that it was shorter, it need less water than other corn in the field,.

July 30, Kaanga Pango on the hoof
On July 27th, I harvested 2 rows.  In the field, I pulled back the husks, the husks were already too dry to braid, so I've just tied and hung them.  At this point the Isola di Este is ready to come out of the field as well, but it's 98 degrees, and I'm having a hard time working more than a couple of hours in the heat.

A few individual ears.  Note the yellow kernel where the Isola crossed with the Kaanga Panga
The cobs themselves are pretty nice looking, they range in size from 11 to 6 inches.  The central leader corns are larger and the tillers make smaller ears.
Harvest from only 2 rows
Due to the extreme drought, these didn't get quite as much water as they might have wanted during the flowering stage, which of course leads to some blanks and not quite perfect tip fill.  So now I'll let these dry down, while I get the rest out of the field.    This is about 50ish corns for 32 plants.  After I taste it, I'll get back to you.  Flint or Flour?  hmmm?

My son tasted this corn in the dough stage and found it to be very sweet.  It may double as a sweet/roasting corn if harvested early enough.  The outside husks were loaded with aphids...they know a sweet thing when they see it.  As for disease issues, there was some minor corn ear worm damage. With worm damage, comes a frass  that causes mold.  This occurred only on the tip of the corn, I think it partly because of the tight wrapper.

So, if we grow this corn again, we will grow at 24" and give it a try as a roasting corn.

Next up with this, we'll try baking and boiling.  

Yield:  Shelled 38 pounds.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Dar's drought tolerant corn

HOLY MOLY, look at that corn grow.  This is Dar's drought tolerant corn.  This was transplanted on 5/11.  It's got tassels.
And look at the hooligans running amok in the corn.  Of these 3 kittens, 2 will become farm cats.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

July Corn 2014

This is Dar's Drought tolerant's growing really fast.  I think I see the first tassel.

The Isola de Este is almost ready to harvest.   The Kanga Pango is right behind it.  Both literally and harvest wise.
Today we are harvesting the shallots, so that I can get these tomatoes trellised.  Yikes.  The cabbage is looking pretty good, better than the darn broccoli, which the darn gopher is feasting on.

Monday, June 23, 2014


For those of you who aren't used to seeing the farm from the other side, here it is.   Alas, it's burnt.
You can just about see the corn in the distance.  For those of you wondering...half the field, about 5 acres.  And just way to close for comfort.

Corn Porn

Dar's Drought tolerant corn is growing so fast, I can hear it.
And here it is up close and personal.  I think this is going to be a tall corn.

Speaking of tall, here's the Isola di Este.  Tassels, silk, corn on!   I think another 30 days in the field and this will be dry and ready.

What's a little corn without tomatoes & beans?  So here are pinto beans, surrounded by tomatoes, with the Isola & the Kanga Pango in the background.  

Saturday, June 21, 2014

From a Distance

From on top the hay 2014

Every year when the hay is baled, one of us climbs on top and takes a photo of the farm.  Sometimes it helps to get some perspective.  Look at that corn!  That's the Italian corn, Isola di Este.  How fuzzy the asparagus looks.

How good the creek trees look, how small the traveling chicken house is.  

From this distance, it's hard to see the weeds, the bugs, the voles...or even the kitten monsters.  Below I can see the fallow fields, everything beyond the tree.  Each time I walk by one of these, I want to plant it.  I just cannot get used to how dry everything is.
Fallow Fields.
How small my world is.  A few seeds, a bit of soil, a piece of sky.