Our 2021 Garden: our Morado mystery

In choosing garden seeds this year, we kept a lot of things in mind. Choosing food that we’ll actually eat, choosing foods for long term storage, choosing foods we would eat more of, if they were more affordable at the grocery store, and choosing foods just for the fun or challenge of it.

One of the things I picked for the fun and challenge of it is corn that is such a deep, dark purple, it looks black.

This image is from the Baker Creek website, where I got our seeds from. I chose it not only for it’s unique colour, but because it is a corn that can be used to make flour; something we have plans to do in the future.

Maize morado is a Peruvian corn, and I found the story behind how Baker Creek got their seeds to be really interesting.

The question is, how do I grow a Peruvian corn, in a Zone 3 prairie environment? So I started looking for people who had already tried to grow maiz morado.

I didn’t have much luck.

I did find things like this video from 2015.

Yeah. They didn’t do too well. I found an earlier video, and saw that these were the Kulli variety, also from Baker Creek.

I found a few other videos, and noticed one thing in particular. They started out with very few seeds. One guy had only five seeds, and of those five seeds, he got one corn plant that he had to hand pollinate, and only one ear of corn, which he intended to save the seed from to plant the next year. I found no follow up on that. Another person had planted 8 seeds, starting them indoors, but he deliberately intended to cross pollinate them with local varieties, to develop a hardier strain. He stopped posting videos soon after, so there was no conclusion to his experiment. All of these were older videos. Of the ones that showed the end product, they got very tall corn plants – 8 feet tall or more – very few cobs, and very few developed kernels on those cobs.

We have one advantage, in that our packet says it has a minimum of 75 seeds in it. At the very least, we should have plenty of corn plants and the wind can do the pollinating!

There is something else, though.

In spite of what the Seed Stories video from Baker Creek says, these are not Maize Morado.

They are Montana Morado.

From their website:

This variety is a northern adapted homage to the legendary Maiz Morado/Kulli corn from Peru. Ed Shultz, the accomplished and passionate open pollinated corn breeder who spent 30 years selecting this dark purple variety, explains that Montana morado is was actually selected from the Painted Mountain corn.

https://www.rareseeds.com/store/vegetables/new-items-2021/montana-morado-corn

These are apparently not from Peru at all.

These are shorter and stockier than the Peruvian Morado strains, and are bred for Northern gardens.

Except this is Montana, which means for us in Canada, it’s bred for Southern gardens.

Will this strain work here? Aside from a few articles about the development of the strain, I am finding nothing about people actually growing it, and how. It may simply be too new a strain. It’s all pretty much a mystery.

So we’re going to be flying by the seats of our pants on this one.

The plan right now is, we will start them indoors in the second half of May. As corn is not something that is normally started indoors, and their roots do not like to be disturbed at all, we will be using toilet paper tubes to start the seeds in. The tubes will be left open ended in a container, so that when it’s time to transplant them, they can be put into the soil, tube and all, with zero disruption to the roots. Hopefully. As their roots tend to grow more downwards than outwards, the open bottoms should mean no root constriction, while the cardboard tubes break down in the soil.

Unlike the one gardener whose video I found, we do not intend to deliberately cross pollinate, so these will be planted at the opposite end of the garden from the other varieties. With wind pollination, the only way to be absolutely sure no cross pollination happens anyway would be to put bags over the developing corn, and then hand pollinating.

I’m not that dedicated to preventing cross pollination.

I am hoping that this one packet of seeds will give us enough corn to be able to have some for fresh eating, maybe even freeze some, and hopefully even try making some chicha morada to drink, but mainly to keep some for seed to plant more next year. Then we will repeat the process until we eventually get a mill and can try grinding some for flour.

Along with the Montana Morado corn, I’d ordered a variety called Dorinny Sweet – a Canadian hybrid – from Baker Creek. We will be direct sowing the Dorinny Sweet, and plan to save seeds from those, too. The Veseys three pack of Peaches ‘n Cream varieties I also ordered was more because I wasn’t sure the Baker Creek order would make it past the border, and while we will have plenty of corn for fresh eating and preserving, Peaches ‘n Cream are just about sustenance, not any particular interest in the variety. They’re the Russet potato of the corn world, in my view. 😀

Well, that’s the plan.

Who knows. Things may even work out to the plan! Either way, I’m looking forward to trying out this variety of corn, and seeing how it handles our climate.

The Re-Farmer

One thought on “Our 2021 Garden: our Morado mystery

  1. This is just a vaguely educated guess, but with much of Peru being mountainous and it’s distance from the equator, I’d say you have a decent shot there. Timing the growing season I think will be the biggest factor. No corn likes snow.

    Heck, of all the things you’ve discussed growing, I’d think avocados are the real longshot. Most varieties take an environment like Southern California or Mexico.

    Liked by 1 person

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