Gandino Barbed Corn

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Mais spinato di Gandino Gandino Barbed corn is a local variety from the province of Bergamo that is characterized by the pointed shape of the kernel. Gandino is the first place in Lombardy where corn was cultivated and where, consequently, the first yellow polenta was prepared. This corn variety came directly from Venice, a city with which there existed a very close and direct business relationship. The corn, unlike potatoes, quickly gained favor with farmers so much so that the crop spread to the mountains where the cold climate pushed planting times back so late that there risked there not being enough time for the plants to reach maturity. The time from planting to harvest is about 120-130 days, and the plant grows 2 m tall. The seeds are planted in April and May, and harvested in September and October. The ear (or commonly, ‘cob’) has a length of 20-25 cm and is reddish in color and cylindrical with kernels distributed on 14-16 rows. The kernels themselves are glassy, yellow-orange and pointed, with a conical barb or beak facing outwards from the ear, giving this variety it’s name. Gandino Barbed corn is well adapted to cultivation in hills or at the base of mountains, and with organic methods. Unlike hybrid varieties, this corn’s kernels can be used as planting seeds. However, the fields for planting seed production must be no less than 200 m away from any other varieties. Corn grown from seed is collected and stored on the cob. The average production is 3500-4000 kg per hectare, but can reach up to 5000 kg per hectare in fertile and irrigated land. The ears of corn are harvested by hand, to avoid collecting the diseased ears or those with moldy kernels, and the harvest begins when the plant reaches physical maturity, signaled by a black layer at the peak of the kernel. Drying of the corn follows in a drying room filled with hot air. The popularity of corn was tied to the ease of manual harvesting. The large porches that characterized the architecture of rural Bergamo were decorated with ears hung for drying. According to a document from 1632, the first corn would have been a foreign crop that would have been grown in Gandino on the slopes of Mt. Corno. From further investigation, it seems that the cultivation of corn in Gandino started before 1623. In the past few years, the Gandino Pro Loco organization has placed a great emphasis on the promotion of products related to the rich and long history of local products, but today, production is still so limited that there is not even enough corn to supply local consumption.

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