I make my own blend for the little acre that my nursery occupies. I try to keep pH, macronutrients, and micronutrients as close to ideal as I can. After applying 3 tons of lime to the acre in 2019, my pH has been at a perfect 6.5 – 6.9. Local soils can sometimes dip into the 4.5 – 4.0 range, given their acid shale parent material.
In 2020, I had to add zinc. 2021, I needed extra boron and copper.
This year, I made a blend of the usual urea (nitrogen) and muriate of potash (potassium), plus some extra sulfur.
I’ll likely need to add a dose of magnesium via epsom salts, come autumn.
Last year I grew a small strip trial plot of this breed from western Mexico, and it performed surprisingly well in Tennessee. It’s a specialty roasting ear type, related to Elotes Occidentales and Bofo, both derived in part from Harinoso de Ocho.
Elote / roasting ear varieties from Mexico tend to be highly colored (blue, lavender, red, and / or cherry).
I might make this breed available for sale in the future if I feel that there is enough demand.
Here is yet another southern Mexican corn, though not as old as its relative, Zapalote Chico.
Z. Grande is native to Chiapas state and grows in wetter areas. I suspect that it is being pushed out both on the earlier and on the later sides by more specialized niche corns. As such, Z. Grande is becoming rather difficult to find in the current era. It is a general purpose corn where grown.
Z. Grande takes ~72 days to bloom and ~50 days to ripen its grain in Tennessee. Plants are 9 – 12 feet tall, mostly purple. Ears are short with low row number (10 – 16) and dented kernels. Husks are rather tight, numerous, and hard. Fairly disease-free here in Tennessee with the strongest resistance to Northern Leaf Blight that I’ve ever observed.
The seedstock was grown in 2021 and derived from 120 intermated plants.
Like Z. Chico, this is another variety that I wouldn’t recommend for use as is but for breeding material instead. The main value lies in its terrific resistance to Northern Leaf Blight, in 2020, 2021, and based on USDA-GRIN data.** If you live in a region where this blight is destructive, then Z. Grande is the most useful corn of mine that I can recommend.
Here is another ancient corn from Mexico, this time from the southern part of the country (Oaxaca and Chiapas).
Zapalote Chico is a member of the same large group that includes Tuxpeño, albeit a much smaller relative. It is found predominantly in dry areas with short rainy seasons, being able to mature in 85 – 90 days after sowing. It is reputedly capable of handling rather strong winds, due to the plants’ short, stout growth habit. Supposedly it makes excellent totopos (tortilla chips) too.
The plants are 6 – 7 feet tall, needing ~56 warm days to bloom, and daylength neutral despite coming from southern Mexico and having no previous selection for earliness. Grain ripening takes 45 – 50 days after pollination. Ears are short, and row number ranges from 10 to 14. Kernels are dented but rather soft, like Gourdseed. Husks are **EXTREMELY** tight, hard, and numerous. Very strong resistance to Southern Rust here after artificial inoculation.
Seedstock was harvested in 2021 and traces back to 100 plants.
This population isn’t worthwhile as is due to its low yield, but it would make a great breeding resource. Z. Chico is the only variety that redwing black birds will largely leave alone here, due to the corn’s husks. It is nearly immune to earworm damage also. Southern Rust resistance is one of the best that I’ve observed too.
This breed has quite a history to it. It is one of the ancestors of the narrow-eared corns of Western Mexico and (likely) of US Southwestern types such as Papago Flour. I suspect that Harinoso de Ocho was also involved in the origin of Northern Flint-Flour, and it clusters closely in phenotype with Southeastern US 8 Row (Cherokee White Flour and Quapaw Red Flint).**
At present, H de Ocho is almost completely extinct as a breed in production, with only one “typical” (i.e. not heavily contaminated) collection held in seed banks. Its derivatives such as Tabloncillo and the colored elote corns are still widely grown in western Mexico, however.
Plants are 8 – 10 feet tall, with tillers common. Unlike most Northern Flint-Flours, however, this breed’s tillers have very little tassel seed (hermaphrodites), and many plants’ tillers will even produce fine ears. 2 particular individuals made 5 ears apiece for me last year! Row number ranges from 6 to 10, and ear length ranges from 9 to 12 inches (one was 15). Time to bloom in Tennessee is 72 days for pollen and 77 days for silking. The grain needs 55 – 60 days to ripen post pollination.
This breed is highly productive both as is and in crosses with other Mexican corns, showing excellent contribution to yield in low and medium elevation sites.*** Grain production is quite good in Tennessee too, and the plants seemed happy here last summer.
This seed stock was harvested in 2021 and traces back to 150 hand-pollinated plants.
Also, despite the “Harinoso” (floury / soft) in the name, this collection is more flinty than floury, due to introgression of a Mexican popcorn (Reventador?) decades back before the original seed stock was donated to the seed banks. Successive growouts have likely placed selection pressure on the population to become more flinty over time, favoring the introgression of the harder grain from Reventador.
No, that’s not disease that you’re seeing on the Z. Chico (left). Some corns just die down much faster than others post blooming. Breeding plants that remain green for longer seems to help with yield (more photosynthesizing) and stalk quality (less stalk rot).