chapter  6
16 Pages

Grains

ByKELLY J.  SISSON LESSENS

In 2005, chef Dan Barber of the Hudson River Valley’s Blue Hill Restaurant received a sample of an eight-rowed flint corn. Flint corn is one of several varieties of corn, and – as opposed to those which pop, are bred to be eaten as “sweet,” or are softer and starchier and thus good for feeding animals or turning into syrups – stores well and is especially good for grinding. Native Americans had historically cultivated a large number of flint corn varieties in the region and, over time, New England’s colonists and Italian peasants alike adopted the grain. As farmers and scientists discovered how to cultivate higher-yielding corn crops, though, they largely abandoned lower-yielding varietals, no matter how savory. Astounded by the flavor and quality of the polenta he made with the initial sample, Barber decided to grow the corn directly on the farmland surrounding his restaurant, a decision that he says diners have embraced.1