Pungo Creek dent corn comes from an Eastern Shore heirloom, grown for 165 years by Pungo Creek, Virginia farmers. Genetic analysis shows it to be a descendant of Bloody Butcher, a predominantly red kernelled corn introduced in Virginia in 1845.
Very little is known about Bloody Butcher’s origins. One apocryphal story recounts a young kidnapped girl escaping her Native American captors by swimming the Ohio River with these seeds in her pocket—the girl was much more likely to have survived the wet ordeal than were the seeds.
Some speculate that Bloody Butcher resulted from the early pioneers crossing various local Native American seeds grown in the region for centuries with varieties the settlers had developed. The pioneers started intentionally cross pollinating corn in the early 1800’s and naming their new varieties. Dent varieties were usually crosses between the harder and small kernelled “flint” varieties with softer larger kernelled flour or “gourd seed” varieties.
Pungo Creek is a very hardy, large-eared, beautifully multi-colored variety able to tolerate drought as well as resist falling over in wet years when it can easily grow to 12 feet and produce two or more heavy ears per stalk. American farmers both east and west of the Mississippi grew and locally adapted various Bloody Butcher varieties well into the 20th century.
In the early 1920’s Henry A. Wallace, an earlier developer of hybrid corn seed and a founder of what became Pioneer Hi-Bred International, used Bloody Butcher inbred lines as one cross to produce the Copper Cross hybrid. In 1924, this seed became the first commercially available corn hybrid seed sold in the Corn Belt. It was sold as: “Plant yellow seed and harvest copper-colored seed.” Wallace went on to become Secretary of Agriculture and Vice President under President Roosevelt and Commerce Secretary under President Truman. Wallace subsequently ran unsuccessfully for President against Truman in 1948.
Production at Nick’s Organic Farm
Today Pungo Creek is valued for its flavor, nutritional profile, and color for cornmeal, bread, polenta, and masa, pozole, tortillas, tamales, and pupusas. Because of its richly varied colors, its ears also make impressive decorative corn.
At Nick’s Organic Farm the seed is constantly being selected to improve its growing characteristics, such as resistance to lodging (falling over). Ears are also being selected for higher yield potential and quicker drying on the stalk. Ears selected for seed production are picked by hand, air dried, and gently shelled in antique corn shellers that preserve the quality of the seed coats.
We harvest the corn grain in the fall with our combine. We put the seed through small seed cleaners to remove small bits of cob and leaf.
How to Use our Corn
We sell the whole grain to our customers who create various products such as cornmeal, for bread and polenta, and masa, for tortillas, tamales, and pupusas.
We have a small stone mill, and we freshly grind cornmeal for our customers. Unlike most store bought cornmeal which no longer has its germ or bran, our whole grain meal should be refrigerated.
Masa is corn that has been cooked in water and hydrated lime to break down the corn cell structure. It is rinsed, dried, and ground finely. When water is added to the resulting flour or powder, the masa forms a thick dough similar to wheat flour. Regular cornmeal will not form a thick dough when cool water is added because, unlike wheat, it does not contain gluten.
Check out our recipe section for ideas on how to use our corn meals.
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