Dent corn (Zea mais indentata), or dente di cavallo (meaning “horse’s tooth”) is called for its unique shape. This ancient variety of corn has been grown in northeastern Italy since before the arrival of hybrids. There are two similar varieties, white and red. The cob of the white variety has grains similar to horses’ teeth, and the color is pearl white. In the red variety, the shape is similar, but the grain has an intense red color outside and a white color inside. The chaff is white for the white cob, and it is red for the red variety. Though the two varieties are grown together, they keep their own features. Seeding occurs in April, since for this variety there are 145 days between germination and maturation, subject to variation depending on the year. The planting should be mixed, with 50 g of red variety and 7 kg of white variety. It is advised to plant on fresh soil, preferably mixed but not sandy. The seeds are pure and have been passed on for generations of farmers. The milled grain produces an excellent type of flour, which is suitable for polenta. The flour from the white variety has a pearly white color, with a delicate taste. It takes 45 minutes to cook and needs to be served slightly thickened. It is usually served with fish, cod, fish soup, porcini mushrooms or with small quiches with truffle and Carso olive oil. The flour from the red variety has a purplish color, and a stronger taste. The serving consistency is thicker and it is usually served with meat or game. Elderly farmers of the area state that that these two varieties of dent corn had bigger harvests compared to other local varieties, and they were of excellent quality. In order to survive, these older varieties need attention and seed exchange from farmers to maintain genetic strength. The mixed planting of the red and white varieties is another important aspect of its cultivation. Today there is a lack of collaboration between institutes of research and farmers. This can easily lead to the homogenization of flavors as well as the introduction of commercially modified crops by those who don’t believe in the potential of local products.
Image: © Marco Del Comune & Oliver Migliore