King Philip Corn
Historic Wampanoag native landrace flint corn from New England, named after Wampanoag intertribal leader Metacom, who was also known to early settlers as King Philip.
This legendary, northern-adapted variety may have been given to English settlers by the Wampanoag, but it may also have been taken when Puritans seized and disposed of 1,000 acres of corn during "King Philip's War" in 1675. What is certain, is that this native corn has fed Northeastern natives and settlers for countless generations and hundreds of years as a meal and hominy corn. It is now listed as endangered and culturally important on the Slow Food Ark of Taste.
Accounts throughout the 19th century disagree as to whether this variety was all-red, all-yellow, or a corn with both red and yellow ears, though most use the word "copper" to describe it either way. Our strain seems to have mostly copper-red ears, with some appearing more copper-yellow.
Beginning in 1817, John Brown of Long Island (then farming in Lake Winnipesaukee, NH) began selecting this variety for longer ears of a uniform size with small butt-ends, and producing at least two cobs per plant. The corn was soon grown throughout New England, the northern states, and lower Canada with the names "John Brown's Corn" or "Improved King Philip Corn".
Our seed comes from William Woys Weaver, who notes that this strain from his Roughwood Seed Collection pre-dates Brown's improvements. This may account for some variation in cob length, shape, and color.
Read more about this corn's history in the Slow Food Ark of Taste, and in the annotated 1915 text Corn in Montana: History, Characteristics, Adaptation.
Read more about Truelove Seed's collaboration with Mashpee Wampanoag Farm and The Food Project here.
Photos by Natalie Costa of Winnetuxet Farm, our friend and first grower of King Philip Corn.
Read more about King Philip Corn and the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe today:
"Knee High by the 4th of July"
Danielle Hill of Heron-Hill.org, July 11, 2021
"A Mashpee Wampanoag woman reconnects with a traditional corn"
WCAI, October 21, 2021
"A Thanksgiving History Lesson in a Handful of Corn"
New York Times, November 22, 2021 [PDF]
"King Philip Corn"
Slow Food USA, February 2021
To honor and support the work of generations of indigenous North American seed keepers and plant breeders, a portion of sales from this seed will be shared with indigenous seed sovereignty projects. More details soon.
Days to maturity: 110
Seeds per pack: 100
Germination rate: 90% on 05/01/2023
Planting / harvesting notes
Direct seed about an inch deep in moist soil a couple weeks after the last danger of frost. 12"-24" spacing in row, especially if intercropping with beans and/or squash. Needs full sun and ample nitrogen in well-drained soil. Leave ears on the stalks as long as possible to dry before harvesting for popcorn or seed saving. If weather and/or pests prevent a full cure on the stalk, wait until the ear has flopped over, silks toward the ground, making sure the husks are brown and papery.
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 husks and cobs to fully 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.