Crow corn

Ark of taste
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Millo corvo

In a world where cultural and gastronomic globalization grows, the ethnographic, gastronomic, and cultural revitalization of the Cultural Association of Meiro, located in the town of Bueu, in the Pontevedra (region of Spain) is to be praised. Its work has resulted in the revival of the Corvo corn, or millo corvo (its kernels are black, Corvo means Crow in Galician, hence its name). With its peculiar dark corn ears, it was one of the first varieties to be planted in this southern Galician country. The earliest indications of corn cultivation in the jurisdiction of ‘O Morrazo’, where Meiro is located, date back to 1618. At that time, farming production system was transformed and continued to evolve until 1720, when corn was the most predominant cereal planted. For peasants it was almost the only cereal crop, representing 92 percent of the total, compared to 6 percent of rye and 2 percent of wheat. Several decades ago Corvo corn used to be planted among wood and plough lands, on areas were the soil was not very rich. As a result of being a resistant variety, Corvo corn was also used as a shield to protect other crops. However, a new, more productive variety, which was used only as animal feed, was slowly introduced. This almost led to the extinction of other varieties existing in the area; Corvo Corn, Branco and Reina were also used for human consumption in bread, and empanadas (Galician pies). In order to launch the process of recovery of this corn variety, which was almost extinguished in the area, the best kernels were sought in the surrounding villages. The memories of the oldest farmers provided advice about crop techniques, as well as information about the uses and customs related to this crop. Finally, the whole production cycle was reconstructed, not to earn profits, but to be a core part of a series of educative, leisure, and cultural activities about the traditional societies. The Cultural Association of Meiro also created a lesson plan ‘The Adventure or the Corvo Corn in the Village of Meiro’ so that students, clubs, and individuals can learn and take part of the process of reconnecting of their roots. The goal is to encourage respect for the environment, show the rational uses of a natural resource, and appreciate different architecture of the country like horreos (traditional stone granaries) or water mills. The cycle starts in spring with the preparation and fertilization of the soil, using the ‘esterco’ (manure). Then, the soils are traditionally ploughed with the last surviving pair of oxen of O Morrazo yoked to a plough while the kernels are thrown on the ground. Once the corn is planted, the soil is smoothed using a hand-made grade (harrow). When the corn plant reaches around ten centimeters, the soil is deeply turned in order to remove the weed. Later, when it has grown a little bit more, the process called arrendado starts, consisting in a more superficial turn and selection, where the worst plants are removed. In summer the crops are irrigated and the pendón, (the male flower located on top of the plant) is cut in order to prevent the wind from brake the stalk. The beginning of February is the time to cut and stack the corn, without removing the ears, as the tradition says. Some days later, with the waning moon, according to the seniors’ advice, the process of esfollada is used to take out the ears and remove the leaves (follaco in Galician). Then they are taken on carts to the hórreo in order to be stocked. The next step is the debullada (taking the kernels out of the ears) and taking the corn to the watermill to do the muiñada (the grinding). The flour is kneaded with natural ferments and is baked in wood ovens. This entire process finishes with an Ethnographic, Gastronomic and Cultural Festival. Every year hundreds of people gather in Meiro at the end of March in order to taste the Corvo Bread done with the dark flour obtained from this type of corn. Other specialties than can be tasted are the empanadas (Galician pies) done with Corvo corn flour bread and filled with seaweed, cod or scallops. The flour is also used to cook almond cakes, apple cakes, nut cakes, and kneading cakes, all accompanied by the wine of the country. Apart from the food-related activities, the Cultural Association of Meiro organizes other activities like folkloric dances, shows, and workshops of traditional crafts such as basket artifacts, toys, works with follaco (corn leaves), conferences and video screenings. Every year they also organize a cultural visit to the Muiño da Presa, the water mill where the Corvo corn is ground in the traditional way, an activity that was also recovered by the Association.

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Production area:Pontevedra region

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Cereals and flours

Nominated by:Germán Arrien | Chef Federico López Arcay, A Quinta da Auga Hotel & Spa, Relais & Châteaux