Lenape flour corn for corn bread and dumplings. 10-foot tall plants produce 2 cobs each.
Puhwem Corn was stewarded by Nora Thomson Dean (Touching Leaves Woman) and her family in the Lenape/Delaware community in "Indian Territory," Oklahoma. Born in 1907, she spent the later half of her life preserving and documenting the knowledge and traditions of Lenape people. This particular variety is used for making bread, as you can see in the fourth photo, an excerpt from the 1971 article "Delaware Ethnobotany" by George A Hill Jr. in which he interviewed Nora Dean and other Lenape elders. Nora was working on her own cookbook, which was published after her death, called "Lenape Indian Cooking," and it includes many traditional and modern corn preparations and recipes. Gladys Tantaquidgeon, Mohegan anthropologist and medicine woman, wrote "Folk Medicine of the Delaware and Related Algonquin Indians." In her section on corn, she describes a world of rituals connected to the Spirit of Mother Corn as well as ceremonial diets and the medicines of corn, of which only vestiges remain.
A couple interesting tidbits:
- "The different varieties of maize are not planted near one another because, it is said, 'One will visit the other and forget to come back.'"
- "When corn matures one must share the first gathering with a less fortunate tribesman or with some old person…In order that people may continue to receive the blessings of the Creator, every man is obliged to share his first fruits and game with others before partaking of them himself." This second point exactly echoes what my Karen farmer friends from Myanmar tell me about their custom of feeding their elders with their first harvests in order to receive blessings.
We got our Puhwem seed from the USDA seed bank. Also check out Sehsapsing Blue Corn, another Dean-family Lenape variety. If you are Lenape, please reach out so we can rematriate these seeds to you free of charge.
Also known as Oklahoma Delaware White Corn.
Days to maturity: 110
Seeds per pack: 80
Germination rate: 98% on 11/16/2022
Planting / harvesting notes
Corn requires warm soil to germinate. Wait a week or two after the last frost and sow seeds directly in the ground. Plant in rows 2-3' apart. For good pollination, it is better to plant at least 3-5 shorter rows next to each other rather than one or two long rows. Sow 1" deep and thin to every 6-12" within the row. Keep soil moist until germination. Consider planting successions every few weeks for continual harvest.
Seed keeping notes
Corn is wind pollinated and should be isolated by 2-3 miles from other varieties of corn to avoid unwanted cross-pollination. Another option is to separate your corn plantings by 3-4 weeks so they do not flower/tassel at the same time. Allow the cobs and kernels to dry on the plants before harvesting for seed. If you are concerned about neighbor's corn plots hybridizing yours, consider only harvesting seed from the plants towards the middle of your plot, leaving the outer rows for eating. If necessary, lay out the cobs to do some final drying before removing the husks and seeds.