Types of Corn

By into the rustic - 8:26 AM

Types Of Corn

This is the part where I start spouting latin and greek terminology and you gasp and exclaim “oh my!” as you marvel at the unbelievable range of my dexterity and knowledge of the plant kingdom.

So here we go. The latin name for corn is Zea Mays. When you further break down this term, “Zea” is ancient Greek for “cereal” and also comes from the verb “ to live”. This meaning was also important for the native Americans, whose word for corn was “maize”, which means “ that which sustains”.

Now that I am living in Mexico, I can fully appreciate the uses and need of corn in life- particularly here. It’s cheap, relatively easy to grow, keeps you well fed, and has a multitude of uses. Corn grown here is amazing to see. If you could just look at the indigenous’ corn growing along the diagonal and sometimes almost vertical slant of a mountain, literally growing in the rockiest terrain imaginable, and in perfectly straight rows. I still do not know how they manage to a.) climb to these crazy altitudes, and b.) how on earth my corn gets ill if the dirt merely looks at it the wrong way, and the locals grow theirs in virtual bedrock where it flourishes. My goal is to learn from the pros, and they are definitely more skilled than you or I.

Mexican corn has basically been trained to grow in the harshest of conditions, and honestly if you want the best corn to grow, you need to get yourself some of these corn seeds.

But I am getting side-tracked, let’s get down to discussing all you need to know about corn.

Corn is both space consuming and also a nitrogen addict. But with that aside, it does return you in full for those occasions when you fertilized the crap out of the soil (no pun intended) in its yield. For every one kernel you plant you get on average, 750 back. You could get as much as 25-30 bushels per acre that you plant, and maybe as much as 90 bushels if you really fertilize the soil just right.

You don’t need big machinery, draft animals, or any kind of real intensive labor to grow corn. You just need to provide it the space, sun, and fertile soil. Have maybe some extra hands available to help weed and water, and then tell so and so to husk the corn for dinner. Note: Always wear long sleeves when picking corn, and never ever ever run through a corn field without having a blood bank with the red cross on standby.

There are 8 basic kinds of corn. They are Indian (hominy and flour) corn, popcorn, pod corn, flint corn, dent corn, sweet corn, high-lysine corn, and waxy maize.

Indian Corn

All of the original corn at one time was considered “indian corn”, as the indigenous are the ones who developed all the varieties, colors, and combinations that we enjoy today. I hate to use the term for this variety, but it is the name that is still used to this day and that people recognize, so I am forced to comply. I’d prefer to call it anything but Indian Corn, since this is not nor has ever been India (ahem...way to go Columbus), but c'est la vie. Some types of Indian Corn are called “flour corn” because they contain a soft starch that allows them to be ground down to a fine powder. (Cornmeal however, is produced by flint/dent types of corn, f.y.i.)

There are many varieties of indian corn in a spectacular range of colors from pink to red, white, yellow, blue and black. Blue corn is becoming more popular and accepted in the marketplace as you now see blue corn chips for sale in your local supermarkets.

Some good sources on buying Indian Corn are from Abundant Life, Johnny’s Seeds, Good Seed, Talavaya, and Redwood City.

Some helpful books on Indian Corn:

1.) Indian Corn in Old America by Paul Weatherwax (New York: Macmillan, 1954)

2.) Corn Among the Indians of the Upper Missouri by George F. Will (1917)

3.) Buffalo Bird Woman’s Garden: Agriculture of the Hidatsa Indians; and Brother Crow, Sister Corn: Traditional American Indian Gardening by Carol Buchanan


The only kind of corn that can transform with heat and oil into the snack we all love dripping in iridescent yellow melted butter- popcorn. The variety specifically that pops is Zea Mays var. Praecox or Everta.

This type of corn is considered by archaeologists to be the oldest variety of corn that was popped and used as food for millenia. They are late maturing (95-120 days) and are shorter than other corn varieties with smaller ears. They can handle crowded planting, less fertile soil, and droughts.

There are only two ways to consume popcorn, by grinding the kernels into cornmeal or popping it. It is a very hardy and tough kernel which makes it perfect for popping. The kernel needs to have about 12% moisture inside it, so that when the heat builds up pressure in the kernel, it just pops open. Many times people burn their popcorn because the kernels have dried out on the supermarket shelves or in their own pantry.

There are many different color varieties of popcorn, but unfortunately they all turn white when popped, so you won’t get a bowl of fruit loop looking edibles, sorry. The actual corn kernels themselves can be white, pink, black, yellow or blue.

You can find popcorn seed from Abundant Life, Johnny Seeds, Farmer Seed, Harris, Southern Exposure, Shumway, and Redwood City

Pod Corn

The reason this corn gets its name is because each individual kernel grows enclosed in a “pod” like membrane or husk. This type of corn makes excellent forage for livestock, and that’s about it.

If interested, you can find Pod Corn seeds at the following places:

Native Seeds/Search catalog

526 N. 4th Ave., Tucson, AZ 85705




DeeDee Wick

4055 W. Myers Rd., Covington, OH 45318

Stokes Seeds




Literally this type of corn forms a dent on the top of the kernel as they mature. This type of corn is typically grown and then left to dry on the cob. Much of Mexican corn is actually this type. It is excellent for feeding livestock or grinding down into cornmeal or hominy.

You can roast the immature ears for table eating, or use it in cooking, but its not as tasty as the sweeter corn varieties.

Dent corn (also called Field Corn) has the highest yield of all the corn-150-300 bushels per acre. It is bigger, taller, with larger ears, and is much more resistant to the elements than sweet corn varieties.

Dent corn comes in only two colors, yellow or white. White corn is late maturing and makes white cornmeal- (this is less nourishing than yellow cornmeal.)

You can buy white dent corn at:

Schlessman Seed Co.

Milan, OH 44846




You can find 4 different kinds of dent corn (Reid’s yellow, Boone Co. White, Krug’s yellow, and Henry Moore Yellow) at :

Leonard and Gerald Borries


16293 E. 1400th Ave., Teutopolis, IL 62467


This is known as Zea Mays var. Indurata. Flint corn is usually sold for decorating purposes only, not for consuming. They come in black, blue, purple and red colors. Rainbow flint has multi-colored ears (avail. from Old’s). Another type, Garland Flint, has kernels that range from yellow to red (avail. from Johnny’s).

This variety of corn has kernels that are much harder than dent corn, and don’t wrinkle or dent up when dried. They are very smooth and hard to the touch. The corn matures late, around 100-120 days, and are tolerant of cool, wet weather.

To find varieties of Flint try at: Gurney, Nichols, and Abundant Life

Sweet Corn

Known as Zea Mays var. Rugosa, it was the first type of corn developed by the European immigrants in the New World.

This corn mutation is where the kernel contains sugar in a water solution with some starch. The sugar though quickly changes to starch after it is picked, so eating fresh is necessary.

This variety is of course sweeter than the other varieties, but that is all it has going for it. It is not as resistant to diseases and environment as the hardier types of corn (flint, dent, etc).

But the corn you eat at dinner on the cob or off, is of the sweet corn variety. You can freeze, eat fresh, or pickle it. You can also make cornmeal or hominy from sweet corn if you dry it as you would field corn. There are subdivisions of sweet corn, depending on how early they mature.

Subdivisions of Sweet Corn

Early Corn

“Early” corn means this type matures in 53-68 days. The best way to plant this type of sweet corn is when your warm season is short, if you live farther up north for example. Or you can use this variety to do a double-crop planting if you have a limited garden space available. Typically early corn grows easier in cooler weather than the mid or late corn types. Early corn only grows 4-6 ft. in height and has smaller ears. These types of corn can also be grown closer together than other varieties so about 6” apart.

Midseason Corn

This type of corn takes around 69-86 days to mature. It requires warmer soil than the early corn, about 60-80 degrees F and yields longer ears and more of them. This variety grows 6-8 ft. in height.

Late Corn

This type of corn takes 87-92 days to mature. This corn is even larger than the midseason and can get to 7-10 ft. in height.


Just as the name implies, this is even more sweeter than the sweet corn variety. Some people love it, others think it is overkill. I personally feel you lose too much of the “corn” taste with this variety, but to each his/her own.

High-Lysine Corn

Lysine is a form of protein, and most corn types are short on this amino acid, which is why many cultures combine corn with beans which are lysine rich. This is a relatively new type of corn that was developed and is used mainly as a livestock feed, but it can also be used as a type of field corn for human consumption.

Where to find:

Crow’s Hybrid Corn Co

PO Box 157, Kentland, IN 47951

Waxy Maize

This is a relatively new type of corn that is extra-digestible and higher in starch than other forms of corn. It was first dicovered in Shanghai China, but researchers suggest that it came to China originally from Portugal. When scientists tested this type of corn they found that it contained a “rare” form of starch called “erythrodextrin” or what we call today, amylopectin. This is also found in rice.

This variety of corn suddenly made all the rave reviews because when tested it produced better weight gain in livestock. Today if you try to google this type of corn, you can find it is now being used as a supplement in weight gaining and muscle building programs. Whether this is a true benefit is still up for grabs, but apparently if a grotesquely muscle bound fool says so on the cover of some body building magazine..everyone and their grandma is going to buy it.

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