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For Our Stone Ground Heirloom Grits, Barkley's Mill Taps Southern Appalachia Roots with Hickory King Dent Corn

February 09, 2017

Barkley's Mill-non GMO corn-heirloom-stone ground-gritsHickory King Dent Corn is an heirloom, open-pollinated white corn commonly chosen for grits. White dent varieties of corn are often used for grits, though other types are used, including yellow corn varieties. Hickory King Dent corn originated in Appalachia, dates to the late 1880s, and is one of the oldest cultivated corn varieties. Hickory King Dent possesses a huge kernel, much larger than modern corn. Dent corn takes its name from the small indentation or dimple (dent) that forms when the corn dries.

What’s special about Barkley’s Mill Hickory King Dent corn?

Our seeds originated from an organic heirloom source, and we conscientiously maintain that status when growing corn at Barkley’s Mill on Southern Cross Farm. In addition to not using pesticides, herbicides or chemicals, we employ sustainable farming methods. Barkley’s Mill takes that two steps further through non-GMO and gluten-free certification. When we grow cover crops, to keep the soil fertile, even those plants are non-GMO.

What does it mean to be non-GMO verified and gluten-free?

Simply put, non-GMO means not genetically modified. To ensure high quality grits, Barkley’s Mill maintains gluten-free certification through NSF and non-GMO verification through the Non-GMO Project, both industry gold standards. These certifications involve a series of rigorous tests, and the mill must maintain specific methods to ensure that our corn and grits remains both non-GMO and gluten-free. Barkley’s Mill started with non-GMO heirloom corn seeds and continues the tradition by growing corn with time-honored methods that not only respect this heritage, but preserve quality.

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Can you tell me more about heirloom corn?

Heirloom plants are plants with a history of being passed down through a family or a locality. Small farmers and individuals value heirloom corn for many reasons—hardiness, adaptability to variable weather conditions, pest resistance, and open-pollination, to name a few. Hickory King Dent corn develops tight husks on its large ears of corn, which discourages corn worms, a common and destructive insect pest attacking corn. Since Barkley’s Mill does not spray or treat with chemicals or pesticides, this natural heirloom adaptation helps do the job of keeping corn worms at bay. Growers also prize heirloom plants for superior flavor.

Is Hickory King Dent corn normally used for grits?

Yes, white dent varieties of corn are typically used for grits and cornmeal. Yellow dent corn is also widely used. Barkley’s Mill gourmet grits come from the white corn variety of Hickory King Dent. Because of this corn’s versatility as delicious creamed corn and a good roasting ear when picked and cooked early, Barkley’s Mill sells not only our stone ground grits made from this corn, but also Barkley’s Mill organic seed that you can purchase to grow at home.

Where do you buy seeds for your corn?

We grow our own seeds, saving our own organic, non-GMO heirloom seed every year, hand selecting for the best quality and growth patterns so that we sow strong seeds in future years.

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