Monday, December 19, 2005

ENV: Corn and Perennial Teosinte

It's been a number of years now since i did my little part to stave off the extinction of some native corn varieties, growing a quartet of rarities every year on a rotating basis in tiny plots, but i think of that time whenever i run across anything having to do with corn. Of all the things i once grew (returning the bulk of the seed to native communities in Arizona, New Mexico and northwestern Mexico), my favorite was a diploid plant that has at least some claim to ancestry of corn or its progenitor.

The amazing part was that this plant was a perennial teosinte, and i was growing it to help keep it from vanishing. Apparently few remained at home, and most folks involved in this project would rather have grown something they could convert to food. Much of the country in which it was originally found had already disappered under coffee plantations or slash and burn for, oddly enough, small corn plots. And there was some thought of trying to hybridize this plant with modern corn varieties to produce a perennial corn, but i believe that effort faded under the weight of the economic value of the rest of the crop for silage and turnings.

In any case, the plant, adapted to higher elevations and a cooler microclimate, fairly thrived at my place and it was everything i could do to keep it from taking over everything. It looked and behaved like a miniature bamboo. And it was virtually care-free. I didn't so much as water it once after it broke ground. Had i a place now with the space i would surely plant it again.

All of this was brought to mind by an excellent post on corn and much else over at Creek Running North. If you have any interest at all in indigenous culture, corn, or just plain fine writing you ought to give it a read. And since he's over on Pinole Creek, maybe you could look up the definition of Pinole. I have no idea what, if any, connection there might be.

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