Types of corn and how to use them

This post is inspired by the book “The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen” by Sean Sherman 

The early cultivation of corn made a huge impact on Native people. Not only did corn feed many people, but it didn’t require hunting, fishing, trapping or gathering. Growing corn could be done from home. This freed up time to explore art, history and science. Corn was easy to grow, highly adaptive and could be traded for other items. There are various types of corn, each with their own history and use. 

Sweet corn

Sweet corn is grown to be eaten fresh off of the cob. It can be lightly cooked, grilled or roasted. It has a sweet, tender taste and is also great dried and added to soups and stews. 

Flint corn

Flint corn is named for the hard, protective texture. It has a lower starch content than dent or flour corn and is often called “Indian corn.” Its colors range from white and yellow to multicolored red. It can be added to soups and stews, eaten alone, or makes great popcorn. 

Flour corn

Flour corn is also referred to as “Mandan Bride,” an organic thought to have been developed by the Mandan Indians of North Dakota. It is usually used for grinding into flour. It has jewel-toned and striped kernels that yield a multi-color cornmeal with a fresh flavor. It cooks into a fragrant polenta and makes an excellent cornbread. 

Dried corn

Any corn can technically be dried for storage and ground into flour or cornmeal, but flour or dent corn is preferred. Its covering is tender and it will plump quickly in a soup or stew without long periods of soaking. This corn makes a finer, softer flour than flour ground from flint corn.

Hominy and pozole

This Native staple relies on the process of nixtamalization, which removes the tough skin from dried flint corn to produce a softer kernel. This technique originated about 3,500 years ago in ancient Mesoamerica. Nixtamal is known as “hominy” in the United States, and when ground, becomes “grits.”