"The tragic reality is that very few sustainable systems are designed or applied by those who hold power, and the reason for this is obvious and simple: to let people arrange their own food, energy and shelter is to lose economic and political control over them. We should cease to look to power structures, hierarchical systems, or governments to help us, and devise ways to help ourselves." - Bill Mollison

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Promise Of Blue Jade Corn

Every year we try new plants or techniques in the garden, sometimes with great success other times not so much. Part of the joy in growing ones own food is in the experimentation aspect of the whole venture. We rarely have absolute failures, only because we take food production very seriously and usually limit speculative undertakings to a small percentage of what we grow or create in the garden.

This year we are trying a variety of new crops and will also be experimenting with various water retention methods amongst other endeavors. I must say that I am really chomping at the bit to get going, more so then in previous years. Perhaps the long winter has finally taken it's toll upon my patience, but more likely it is all the newfangled food gardening ideas I have been formulating deep within the recesses of my mind over the preceding cold months.

All was OK until I noticed Blue Jade Corn in the Seed Savers Exchange catalogue. I had found my nemesis...everyone seems to have one crop that they struggle with and mine is corn. I grow it every year and it is always a battle to bring the crop to fruition, this past year was certainly no exception. At first battered with wind and hail then washed away by torrents of rain, replanted, my Golden Bantam went on to grow into beautiful 8' tall maize that towered far above me. A mere gaze would cause my heart to leap with pretentious joy...I haughtily cursed the weather, for certainly I had at last triumphed in this inexorable pursuit. Never again would I fail to master the fine art of corn production. But in the midst of my celebration, upon seeing my contemptuous pride, the gods sent the wind to promptly flatten my corn back into the earth from wenst it came and a second recovery was not to be had. My fabulous corn was but silage for the chickens.

"Surely this year will be different" I thought, casting an uneasy glance into the heavens, for I had been introduced to Blue Jade Corn. Even I, a perennial underachiever in the cultivation of corn, might have a chance with this variety.

Blue Jade Corn or Baby Blue (botanical name - Zea mays 'Blue Jade') are miniature open pollinated plants that bear 3-6 (some say up to 7) ears of sweet, steel-blue cobs that turn jade-blue when boiled. Plants grow 2-3' tall. One of the only sweet corns that can grow in containers. The cobs are supposedly sweet and tasty for an older variety of sweet corn and are said to make fabulous creamed corn which freezes very well. Although I did read a review somewhere that stated If you are used to modern sweet corn, you may not like the taste of this old heirloom.

The blue color comes from anthocyanins which are concentrated pigments that may appear red, purple, or blue and are found in fruits, berries, purple cabbage, beets, and even corn. These powerful antioxidants have been linked to a wide array of health benefits. Possibly preventing the onset of major degenerative diseases of aging including cancer, heart disease, stroke, cataracts, and mental irregularities just to name a few. Anthocyanins are currently being researched for a large number of potential health benefits.

In conclusion, I am sure to prevail with my corn this year. Even I may prove victorious at growing a hardy short season corn (70-80 days) that should be wind resistant due to it's short stature. So what if it does not hold up to our less then stringent taste tests, most will be frozen or dried for flour anyway. Wish me luck...


deborah said...

Wow. Where to start with this post! First, let me say I LOVE the way you write---your thoughtfulness, your vocabulary, the way you put together words and sentences. So thank you for that!

Man. I too am so chomping at the bit. Not so much because I'm trying many new crops (I am); more because last year's garden, thanks to weather, was such a disappointment. And I'm over-eager to begin again.

I've never grown corn because I thought I didn't have room. So I will definitely consider Blue Jade for next year (I've already plotted this year's garden down to the inch)! And the part about modern tastes not being satisfied by this beautiful old heirloom. Fooey! That's probably because modern hybrid corn varieties have been bred to be so super-sweet. And studies have shown that the modern addiction to sweeteners is on a par with the intensity of cocaine addiction for Pete's sake. For our sake (and our planet's sake) we need to get off that particular band wagon.

Finally, I love the idea of drying the Jade Blue and making flour. I make a mean homemade blue corn tortilla from purchased organic blue corn meal. I'd much rather grow my own.

Oops. I see I've written a little treatise of my own. Thanks again for a wonderful post!

Mr. H said...


Thank you for your kind words. I, Like you, am a enthusiastic reader and seeker of knowledge. My tendencies lie with older outdated books as I feel they contain some of the best knowledge available.

I have never spent much time putting words on paper but have decided to give it a try via the Internet. Through this medium perhaps I will be able to make a connection with others whom are similarly inclined. Like you.

As you are fully aware it is most difficult to suffer defeat at the hands of the weather when ones growing season is so short. Fortunately I am up for the challenge.

Please let me know your opinion on the yellow mangel beets you have listed on your 2009 seed list, I may have to try them next year. We grew Mammoth Red Mangels last year and really liked the outcome.

We do make tortillas at least once every other week and will never return to the cheerless store bought variety. I have never made them with blue corn meal though....fingers crossed

Thanks for visiting,


el said...

Hi Mike. Is it the flattening winds that do in your crops every year? I've tended to have problems because my soil is clay and we tend to get big rainstorms usually in Aug. that can tumble the corn. This short variety may fit the bill for you so I hope it works.

Like Deborah, I have never devoted much land to big production of the stuff. Mostly just popcorn, which is a smaller plant to begin with; it's been successful for me. I've nixtamalized some corn though and made posole: that was fun, and I even ground some of the posole up to make tortillas (though I did add wheat flour to it to make it a bit easier to roll out). But this year there are bigger plans afoot to tear up more land for gardens and corn (and fodder beets too) will be in that mix.

Ah, gardening in the future tense! ALWAYS the most successful!

peace, --el.

Mr. H said...

Hello El,

Wind and hail, hail and wind, but mostly wind. We do live in a heavily forested area but are situated on a rise at the edge of a long river Valley and can get 40+ mph winds with even greater gusts upon occasion. Sometimes they come with a little hail thrown in for good measure.We had two bad storms this past summer and the second one finished off the corn with high winds.

You should consider doing a post if you ever nixtamalize corn again, I would love to see how you do it. We have never made masa harinia, but will learn if we get some decent corn this year. Normally we mix our corn with wheat for tortilla's, but it does make for a hard roll...you should see my wifes forearms...ha ha.

I highly recommend the Mammoth Red Mangels for a fodder crop, they can get up to 20 lbs and have a very sweet taste. We grate them for salads and that is also how they are fed to the chickens. They have nice "salad" foliage also.


el said...

Thanks for the head's up about the mangels, Mike. I will be growing them really just for forage: we're getting dairy goats (!!) soon so we need to grow them some goodies too.

Wind AND hail? Whoops. There's not much you can do about that. You're quite right to look into shorter corn crops. Corn (sweet) is one of those things I can get locally quite easily, unlike about 90% of everything else I grow, so, well, I am not as much inclined to grow my own...though as usual am always tempted!

I did do a post a while back about hominy, though I didn't include pics about the process: the corn I'd chosen wasn't really made for hominy so it was not exactly photogenic (and also it was a pain to do) but the resulting stuff was yummy! here's the link if you're curious:

Green thoughts!

Vanessa said...

I found the Jade Blue corn in SSE last August and I've been eagerly waiting for planting season since then. I live in L.A. and must container garden. It's warm enough now down here and I planted it on Saturday. I can't wait to serve this at a summer BBQ. Won't my L.A. friends be surprised!

Mr. H said...


Please let me know how your corn does in containers and how you like the Blue Jade.

Your friends will definitely be surprised to see blue colored corn growing in containers...sounds pretty neat.


Anonymous said...

I grew the jade blue corn this spring. Out of the 25 seeds they sent me I had 23 sprout and grow. I didn't have as many ears as they claim, but that doesn't discourage me in the least. All of the cobs but the smallest were allowed to dry for seed. I'm happy to say I now have at least 1000 seeds for a large crop next year. I ate the smaller of the cobs and the taste and quality were excellent. Even spectacular. Out of the seed that was saved and dried I planted 25 more for the fall. I have yet to see if the fall crop will produce anything before the frost, but it is worth the effort. I'm sure you can get a spring and fall crop if the fall crop is started a little earlier. (at least here in north GA) This is the corn that I will be growing from now on because of the short height and fast finishing time. (we also have a problem with strong winds and drought that dries up everything mid-summer) If I could rate this corn from 1 to 5 stars it would definitely be a 6.

Mr. H. said...


I'm glad to hear that you liked the corn. Ours is really close to harvesting. Good job on saving the seeds, that is my plan as well. Those little packets of seeds are expensive.

I also grew some painted mountain corn that is already drying on the cob. I was able to time the the two types of corn so they would not cross with each other. Anyway, the painted mountain corn was not only beautiful but I really enjoyed the flavor as well. I hope my blue jade turns out as good as yours did, I can't wait to try it.

Thanks for leaving a comment,


mauryjo said...

Hey, did any of you have success with your blue jade corn? I'm eager to hear the results. Send me an email at jor@teleport.com, please.

Jo Robinson

Mr. H. said...

Hello Jo - The corn turned out great, tasted great, made wonderful blue corn bread and we are growing it again this year. You can see a picture of it on my September 22 post -


Anonymous said...

I grew some bably blue jade corn this year, but the drought took a horrible toll on it in Texas! An early, dry, hot summer so far -- almost no spring rain in my area.

Still, it eeked out some small ears, at least for seed to plant next time again.

As for making flour from it, I'm not sure how well that would work, as it seem to be a true sweet corn, and the kernals shrivel up when dry - not much material left except to use as seedcorn or reconstitute maybe in soups, IMO.

Mr. H. said...

Anonymous - I hope you have better luck with it next year, it really is a nice corn...we found that it makes for great corn bread. This year, with exactly the opposite conditions you have, we elected not to even try growing corn...too cold and rainy.

Anonymous said...

Mr. H, sorry to hear that!
I must say I was impressed that even during the drought, Baby Blue sometimes tried to put on 2 ears per node! It did not make tillers under drought & heat stress, however.

I'm curious. Does anyone know the genetic origins of Baby Blue Jade? I'm tending to guess it could be from the area of the Mandan & associated tribles, but unsure. What say any of you?

Mr. H. said...

Anonymous - The Blue Jade, also refered to as Baby Blue corn could definitely have originated in the area of North Dakota, unfortunately I have not been able to find out very much information on its origin...if you ever find out more I would love to hear about it. We had Blue Jade corn bread with dinner last night.:)

Kathleen Sanchez said...

I contacted SSE to inquire about the origin of the Blue Jade Corn but they had no additional information :/

Annnightflyer said...

I just ordered the catalog,excited now lol!

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