Flint corn, (Zea mays indurata; also known in most countries as Indian corn or sometimes calico corn) is the same species as Indian corn, but a different variant of maize (var. Linnaeus). Because each kernel has a hard outer layer to protect the soft endosperm, it is likened to being hard as flint; hence the name.
With less soft starch than dent corn (Zea mays indentata), flint corn does not have the dents in each kernel from which dent corn gets its name. This is one of the three types of corn cultivated by Native Americans, both in New England and across the northern tier, including by tribes such as the Pawnee on the Great Plains. Archeologists have found evidence of such corn cultivation by the Pawnee and others before 1000 BC. Cultivation of corn occurred hundreds of years earlier among the Mississippian culture people, whose civilization arose based on population density and trade because of surplus corn crops. Maize/corn (Zea mays) appears to have found its way from the Americas to Asia well before the time of Columbus and the European colonizers. The many varieties of Asian maize could not have been developed in the time since maize was supposedly brought from the New World, and some varieties have unusual traits matching those of South American maizes. Sculptures of gods holding maize have been found at over 100 Indian temples. This art mostly dates from the 5th to 13th centuries AD, but some is earlier. Maize is also mentioned in 5th-century literature in India and 13th-century literature in China. A grain much like maize – known as ‘wheat of Asia’ – was being grown around Milan before or just about the time Columbus returned from his first voyage. Maize was also known at that time as ‘grain of Asian Turkey’. The implication is that maize was carried across the Pacific to Asia, from where it reached some European countries.
Because flint corn has a very low water content it is more resistant to freezing than other vegetables. It was the only Vermont crop to survive New England's infamous "Year Without a Summer" of 1816.
The coloration of flint corn is often different from white and yellow dent corns, many of which were bred later. Most flint corn is multi-colored. Like the Linnaeus variant of maize, any kernel may contain the yellow pigment zeaxanthin but at more varying concentrations.
The flint corn cultivars that have large proportions of kernels with hues outside the yellow range are primarily used ornamentally, notably as part of Thanksgiving decorations in the United States. They are often called either "ornamental corn" or "Indian corn", although each of those names has other meanings as well.
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- New Oxford American Dictionary