Roy's Calais Flint Corn
Roy’s Calais Flint Corn (a variety of Zea mays) is a heritage variety of maize typically grown in Vermont, in the northeastern United States. This product is a flint corn, meaning that each kernel is covered with a hard, outer layer. The corn is pollinated through birds, insects and other natural methods. The plant grows to approximately 2 meters in height, with individual ears of corn from 20 – 30 cm long in a typical cylindrical shape. The exterior of the ear is covered in layers of green leaves that must be removed to access the edible kernels underneath. This variety has eight rows of kernels around the cob in varying colors from golden yellow to dark maroon. The plant does incredibly well in cold, Northern climates and short growing season areas. It has a brief harvest of ninety to ninety-five days. The corn kernels are processed in many ways, used for cornmeal, flour or hominy. In order to create the hominy, the corn must be soaked overnight in water and wood ash in order for the process of nixtamilization to render the corn digestible and easier to grind. The resulting hominy is rich in niacin and complex protein, and it can be used in many dishes (soups and stews, polenta) or as masa flour for tortillas or tamales. This corn is considered to be more flavorful and rich than other industrially produced corns. Originally, Roy’s Calais Flint corn was cultivated by the Abenaki or the Sokoki people of Vermont. This product was considered a staple food for the Abenaki people who, along with the squash and beans that grew together with it, at one time cultivated this corn over 250 acres near the modern-day US-Canadian border. The crop was also the only fruitful corn variety during a growing season characterized by a summer of frosts and snowfall in 1816. Afterwards, it was grown by pioneer farmers, including Roy and Ruth Fair, who passed the strain along to farmers who wanted to continue growing this product. Farmer Tom Stearns was particularly instrumental in bringing forward the pure strain of flint corn that is being produced today, as he worked to remove all the inbred varieties out of the product. Although a few regional seed producers now carry this variety, it is still largely unknown and underappreciated. For instance, it is not listed in USDA’s flint corn collection. Expansion of this product’s market will increase its visibility and ensure the future production of the product by farmers and home growers.