The fundamental piece of information we’ve tried to pass along about wheat is: It got altered during the past century and it just isn’t as good for you anymore.
It turns out, not surprisingly, the same goes for corn. But there are alternatives, as NPR detailed on Thursday:
The handwritten note explained that the corn was an heirloom variety called New England Eight Row Flint (or Otto File, by its Italian name), and that it was a taste that was nearly lost to history.
Native Americans cultivated this variety hundreds of years ago. The corn caught on with settlers in New England because it was hearty and nutritious.
The heirloom corn variety has only eight rows of kernels and hence, its name: New England Eight Row Flint.
Then, in the 19th century, the grain was exported to Italy, where it was prized as a stunningly flavorful polenta corn.
But farmers quit growing it. As with wheat, the problem — maybe issue is a better word — was a competing set of needs when it came to food. And the winner in that competition was growing more corn (for a combination of reasons that were probably both well intentioned and selfish):
So why did farmers stop growing this corn? For everything that New England Eight Row Flint corn has going for it in terms of flavor, its big downside is that it doesn’t produce many cobs. It’s a low-yield corn.
“That’s why farmers moved to higher-yield [varieties],” explains Algiere. “They can get more corn per acre at lower quality.” Farmers produce for bulk because they’re paid by the bushel, not by the color or the flavor.
Here’s what was lost: “The vibrancy of this yellowish-orange pigment is indicative of high concentrations of beneficial phytonutrients called carotenoids, which make this corn appealing for its nutritional value. And it’s also fairly high in protein.”
Eating healthy this way, with heirloom grains and vegetables, is a luxury, still. Will it ever be otherwise is a question.
Posted by Steve