‘Floriani Red Flint’: The Perfect Staple Crop

Grow this productive heirloom grain corn for unforgettable flavor and exceptional nutrition.


| Fall 2017



Grain Corn

Do you think Floriani red flint corn is striking? Just wait until it’s growing in your garden.

Photo by Jim Mackenzie

Grain corn is a terrific crop for gardeners who want to grow their own staple crops, and it’s productive enough to be rewarding even in urban gardens. You can grow corn anywhere in the continental United States, and it’s easy for any household to harvest, store, and process into flour and cornmeal. Grain corn is much easier to process than wheat is, and, in many ways, cornmeal is a more versatile grain staple than wheat flour.

A New World of Corn

Cornmeal is a culinary world in itself: cornbread, muffins, pancakes, waffles, polenta, grits, scrapple, cornmeal crusts for fried chicken or vegetable fritters, and, if you boil whole kernels with culinary lime, you enter the world of hominy, hominy grits, and Mexican tortillas and tamales. Yet it’s ironic that despite more than 88 million acres of corn growing in the United States (the estimate for 2015), there are few choices of grain corn in the grocery store. Cornmeal is such a commodity product that it’s rarely fresh in stores, packages don’t tell you which corn cultivar was ground to make it, and it’s nearly impossible to buy whole kernels for grinding. But there’s hope.

‘Floriani Red Flint’ is a rare, open-pollinated red flint corn from Italy with unforgettable flavor — and the possibilities for cooking with it are endless. If you’re hoping to become self-sufficient in grain, or if you’re looking for a cornmeal with a rich, distinct taste and texture, then you’ll love Floriani. This heirloom corn is an old cultivar from the Italian Alps that was originally selected for qualities that make great polenta. This particular cultivar is a landrace (a locally adapted cultivar that has more variation than a cultivar bred for specific qualities) from the Valsugana valley, where subsistence farmers grew it as staple food until the mid-20th century. The Alpine farmers dried their crop, shucked the ears, and ground the corn into a coarse meal that they boiled and served as polenta.

While the hulls are red, the meal is a deep yellow with a hint of pink. It’s physically beautiful and has a rich, complex flavor to match. ‘Floriani Red Flint’ is the ideal grain corn crop for gardeners: productive, rewarding, and not the usual industrial fare.

Fedco, a Maine-based seed company, had this to say about Floriani in its 2010 catalog: “Stop the presses! Fabulous flavor is why we stuck Floriani into the catalog at the last possible moment. Its medium-to-deep red, pointed kernels are easy to shell. They grind into a fine, pinkish meal that bakes with an appealing spongy texture. Floriani’s richly sweet, delicious, corny taste beat the competition silly in our pancake and cornbread muffin bake-off.”

Growing Floriani and Selecting Seed

‘Floriani Red Flint’ is new to the United States. I first encountered it in Italy while visiting a friend. I admired the corn’s flavor and was given a kilo of it to bring home. Growers have now tested the corn in Kansas, Maine, Nebraska, South Carolina, and Northern California.





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