Learn About Oaxacan Green Dent Corn

One of the fun things about growing food in your home landscape is the sheer variety of items you can try. Hanging onto the old seed varieties is your responsibility, but it also affords you a glimpse into ancient cultures and civilizations. Oaxacan green dent corn is an heirloom variety of corn that traces its roots to a native people from Mexico.

Oaxacan Green Dent Corn History

The Zapotec people are native to Mexico, near Oaxaca, and have a rich history in the country as a strong culture and nation. They were the original cultivators of Zea mays Oaxacan green dent corn, which they used to make a corn flour for green tortillas and would be right at home in the Emerald City. It was also used for animal fodder. This heirloom corn has continued to be a popular food crop both for its unique green kernels and deep corn flavor. Today, we can still source the same seed and make the same foods from this eye-catching green kernelled corn. Kermit the Frog says, "It's not easy being green," but he wasn't referring to this delicious and attractive corn that proudly wears its green color and accents every recipe it touches. Take one look at the rich green cobs and you will be hooked. I know I am. So, source some seed and let's get growing!

Growing Green Corn Plants

Your best bet is to start the plants from seed. This is easily sourced at most organic nurseries or online seed catalogues. Seeds need 75 to 100 days to reach maturity and can be planted outdoors when soil temperatures are at least 65 degrees Fahrenheit (18 C.), or started inside 3 to 4 weeks before the last frost. Germination takes 7 to 14 days. Sow seed an inch below the surface of prepared soil or seed starting mixture. Keep the seeds moist and move the seedlings to full sun once germination has taken place. Green corn plants will need plenty of water, heat and sun to produce those emerald ears. Most of us are not prepared to dry and grind our corn into cornmeal for fresh tortillas. If you are so inclined, however, you probably already know how to do this. A simpler way to make a meal for your family and surprise them with the green ears is to eat it fresh from the grill or poached. You can grind the fresh corn in a food processor and make a green corn tamale bake fairly quickly. This recipe is all you need to get started.

  • 10 ears fresh Oaxacan Green Dent corn
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ stick butter
  • 1 cup cornmeal (or as much needed to form a shape)
  • ½ pound grated cheese of your choice
  • 1 small can diced green chilies

Shuck the corn and soak the husks in water. Grind the corn until doughy and season with salt and butter. Add cornmeal until it forms a ball in your hands. Now line a greased baking pan with the soaked husks and press in the corn and meal mixture. Sprinkle cheese and green chilies over this and then add more corn and meal mix over the top. Press more husks over this, cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 45 minutes, or until the inside mix is set. Buen Gusto!

Bonnie Grant