A couple of weeks ago I planted several rows of corn at my parents’ house. I wanted to try growing my own popcorn this year and didn’t have a large enough area for both popcorn and the field corn I usually plant, but my motivation was a little deeper than that. My parents like corn, my grandparents liked corn, and I’m sure my great-grandparents did also. I planted corn at my parents’ because I was sure it would make my parents happy (it did), and to honor the generations of my family before me. BTW, I really like corn, and I like korn, cornbread, hominy, cream style corn, corn on the cob, etc. … You get the picture.
So, back to the corn, the seeds I planted are a variety of “Indian corn” that I won in a drawing nearly 40 years ago. It was somewhat of a white elephant, so having no better ideas of what to do with this treasure, I shelled the corn, bagged it and froze it. The corn lived in the freezer for several years; after all I was only about 10 years old at the time. Eventually I grew up (some would argue that point) and started planting my own garden. As one might imagine, one of the first things I planted was corn! Forty-year-old corn! When I stuck those seeds in the ground I was hoping that at least a few would come up so that I could pamper them, save the seeds and continue this line of corn. To my surprise, almost all the seeds sprouted.
Forty-year-old corn sprouting and growing green and tall is a wondrous thing. Admittedly, field corn does not make for the sweetest corn on the cob and it can be a little starchy if allowed to get too mature. But I continue to plant these amazing little kernels every year and every year they come up, creating a beautiful corn forest. In a way I feel obligated to plant these little nuggets each year to honor the generations of selection that have taken place to create a plant that will grow from 40-year-old seeds.
As for that corn growing at my parents, I am planning to leave most of it on the stalk until dries and grind it for flour. I can’t wait! Look for an update in a few months.
Taking a step back, I ponder the intimate connection between the domestication of corn and the domestication of humans, an “ongrowing” process that has changed both of us, hopefully for the better.
Plant it and it will grow.
For an interesting perspective, give the song “John Barleycorn” a listen, I’m particularly fond of the version by Traffic.