–Karline Jensen, High Rocks, Hillsboro, WV One of the heirloom crops we will be growing for seed this year is Bluestone Mountain Farm’s heirloom popcorn. Farmer Rhonda Dortch of Hinton, WV has been selling her father’s special popcorn at various retail locations. Bluestonemountainfarm.com. We thought that it would be an easy crop to grow for seed, and popular because of the unique characteristic that it has a very thin hull that disintegrates when you pop it, so you don’t end up with hulls stuck between your teeth.
Many people avoid corn in their diets because of the massive amounts of pesticides used to produce the monoculture crops that fill modern grocery stores. But corn used to be an important staple of the American diet. Before you could buy breakfast cereal in a box, a bowl of popcorn with milk would actually provide all of your necessary nutrients. The old varieties of corn were heartier and more nourishing, and kept the animals in good condition to work hard as well as the people. Here’s an article about another traditional West Virginian corn variety, Bloody Butcher: http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2014/11/03/360434287/on-the-trail-to-preserve-appalachias-bounty-of-heirloom-crops
Corn is pollinated by wind, and requires two miles of isolation to avoid pollination by other varieties, so we will be growing our seed crop up in our mountain garden rather then in the valley where all the farmers are growing commercial corn. That seems appropriate for a hardy mountain variety. In order to ensure good genetic variability and avoid inbreeding, we will grow 200 plants. Thanks to Suzanne Ashworth and her book Seed to Seed for this advice. Hopefully we will harvest enough to share and have more people in our community growing it next year!