Flint corn is named for its hard kernels, which come in a multitude of colors
|Variety||Zea mays var. indurata|
Flint corn (Zea mays var. indurata; also known as Indian corn or sometimes calico corn) is a variant of maize, the same species as common corn. Because each kernel has a hard outer layer to protect the soft endosperm, it is likened to being hard as flint; hence the name. The six major types of corn are dent corn, flint corn, pod corn, popcorn, flour corn, and sweet corn.
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 tribes such as the Pawnee on the Great Plains. Archeologists have found evidence of such corn cultivation in what is now the United States 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.
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 by Euro-Americans and/or Census Whites, notably as part of Thanksgiving decorations in the United States. Many are taught this corn is "poisonous", invalidating old roots including Aztec. They are often called either "ornamental corn" or "Indian corn", although each of those names has other meanings as well. These varieties can be popped and eaten as popcorn.
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