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Old 06-20-2006, 03:29 PM   #1
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Dent corn and the USDA extension office

The following quote is from the first reply in the Canning BBQ sauces conversation:
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Originally Posted by sparrowgrass
Wok, you need to take your recipe to the extension office in your county seat. They will have a food person on staff who will be able to tell you how to can your sauce safely.
Reading the above prompted me to tell you about my experience with the local USDA extension office.

I want to buy dry whole kernel yellow dent corn in small quantities (certainly no more than 50 lbs. at a time; 25 would be better) to make nixtamal (like hominy) and grind into masa to make tortillas and use in other Mexican dishes for my own use. I can't find a local supplier of dent corn for human consumption. I bought some online from the only supplier I could find, but it was shipped to me in Memphis TN from Montpelier Idaho. The transportation cost and energy use seemed wasteful so I thought I'd ask Uncle Sam via the USDA extension for advice.

It took a couple messages (both including the quantity I was interested in) and a couple weeks to get the right guy on the phone and when he did call he wanted to talk about contracting with growers for dedicated acreage. Explaining that I was interested in pounds, not tons, seemed to throw him for a loop. After recovering, he gave me the name of his counterparts in northwestern Tennessee, where they produce more corn.

Then, after a very long pause, he started talking about there being no difference between corn intended for livestock feed and corn for human consumption. In fact, the grower sells his corn in bulk without knowing or caring about the end use. He might have said that if it were him, he would buy from a local feed store. He seemed to speak authoritatively regarding both agricultural practices and federal regulations. The conversation lasted about 15 or 20 minutes and ended because my cell phone batteries died.

My Montpelier corn will last a while longer but I'm seriously thinking about buying my next bag from the feed store. I know the idea will produce visceral reactions in a lot of people and I look forward to every-body's opinions. I'm particularly anxious to hear from folks knowledgeable about dent corn suppliers, unmilled whole grain storage and packaging for humans and/or livestock, agricultural practices, or the USDA.

Thanks for your patience and I'm sorry it was such a long post.

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Old 06-20-2006, 07:48 PM   #2
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Some county extensions are better than others! I don't even know what 'dent corn' is, but my only caution would be that if you're buying from a feed store, you might have more problems with critters in the corn than you would if it were 'for human consumption'.
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Old 06-20-2006, 08:01 PM   #3
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marmalady,

Thank you for taking the time to respond. I value your opinion.
By the way, I didn't intend to be critical of the extension office. I understand my question was unusual and I appreciate the candor of the gentleman I spoke to last.
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Old 06-21-2006, 01:44 AM   #4
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Skillet,

Didn't know what dent corn was either, but I now know more about it than I think I want to.

Anyway, did find a web address for the Coop in your state:

http://www.ourcoop.com/main/about.asp


They don't list dent corn or other non-prepared animal feed on their website, but they have to carry some of that stuff in their stores.

Maybe they could give you some more information.

Good luck.
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Old 06-21-2006, 07:00 AM   #5
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Thanks for looking auntdot.
For others, casually reading this conversation and seeing references to feed stores and non-prepared animal feed: Dent corn has been a primary staple food for people in the Americas for thousands of years. I believe it is the most commonly grown corn by far. It is the primary ingredient in corn tortillas polenta, and corn bread and a lesser ingredient thousands of other products. It is what corn meal is ground from. I only assume it is so hard to find because so few people grind their own grain and most who do are primarily interested in grinding wheat for flour to bake in breads. I understand that a lot of the home mills won't produce meal as course as stone ground corn meal and the ones that make good bread flour won't grind the very wet, freshly made, nixtamal or hominy.

As for tortillas, most of the home made ones are made from an instant masa mix often called masa harina. When a recipe for homemade masa is given it almost always includes a disclaimer of sorts where the author says that, because they live in a big city, they actually buy their masa from a local tortilla factory.
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Old 06-21-2006, 04:35 PM   #6
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Hey, I heard my name mentioned!

Yep, you can buy a sack of dent corn from the feed store--dent is plain old field corn, used to feed animals or for corn bread.

One word of caution. I bought feed store corn, to make hominy, and I got a bag of last year's corn, and it was BUGGY. The chickens liked it, but no hominy for me.

Wait til September or October and get the new crop. If you are in Memphis, you might even be able to take a drive in the country and find a farmer.

Feed store corn comes in 50# bags, but the excess can go to the squirrels. Shouldn't cost more than $10.

P.S. I am an Extension Specialist in Missouri. I do 4-H, not ag.
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Old 06-21-2006, 07:16 PM   #7
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sparrowgrass,
Thanks for your post!
If you don't mind, I'd like to ask a few more questions while I have the chance, but first, a couple confessions so you understand the extent of my ignorance.

First: I haven't been in a feed store since about 1964. That was the last of three consecutive childhood summers spent with relatives far from the nearest "town".
Second: I'm afraid that no matter how confident my bearing, the folks in the feed store I go to this fall might sense my lack of experience.

Information on any of the following questions will put me even further in your debt.
  1. Is there any standardized way to tell, from markings on the bag, the harvest year of the contents?
  2. If the bags aren't date stamped in some way will asking for latest "vintage" be useful?
  3. Will telling the folks at the feed store I intend to eat the corn myself be helpful or counterproductive?
  4. Is there any way to politely find out in the feed store if the bags contain bug free corn?
  5. Is there any way to tell as soon as I get the bag home if the corn is bug free?
  6. When I get the corn home, if it appears to be bug free am I probably safe or are there likely to be undetectable (to me) eggs or larvae that will hatch later?
  7. What is the best way to store the corn at home?
  8. Is it realistic to expect to buy corn in the fall for continuous use until next falls harvest?
I hope I haven't imposed on your generous nature with so many question. Thanks in advance for your help.
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Old 06-23-2006, 04:10 PM   #8
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Man, I am going to have to charge you by the word for this answer .

As far as I know, corn is not date stamped. *I* would tell the feed store exactly what I wanted and what I was going to do with it. You may have a different tolerance for strange looks than I have, however.

Bugs are a fact of life in corn--the eggs are laid after the corn is shelled, and there will be eggs in the corn. (And there ARE eggs in your corn meal, and tortilla chips and anything else made of corn. If you cook the corn, or freeze it for 48 hours, you kill the eggs, but they are still there. Just more protein.)

As I recall, I bought my corn for hominy in the summer, so it definitely was at least 6 months old. If you buy corn in November or December, it probably will be from the fall harvest, will have been cold during its storage, and bugs probably won't be a problem.

Store the corn in the freezer. Kills the bug eggs. If you don't have room for 50 pounds of corn in the freezer, put it in gallon ziplocks, freeze each bag for a couple days, then store it somewhere dry. If bugs hatch out, you will see their little webby cocoons, and you can feed the squirrels and blue jays.

Corn should last at least a year. The nice thing about feed stores is that the corn will be so cheap, you won't feel bad about tossing some, if bugs do hatch out.

If you want me to, I will ask my feed store about corn the next time I stop for chicken feed. They know me there, and won't be surprised by my question. Might be next weekend before I have to go, however.

Did I forget anything?

(PS Invite me over for dinner--I love Mexican food, and I am only 3 or 4 hours away.)
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Old 06-24-2006, 10:28 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sparrowgrass
Man, I am going to have to charge you by the word for this answer .
...
Store the corn in the freezer. Kills the bug eggs. If you don't have room for 50 pounds of corn in the freezer, put it in gallon ziplocks, freeze each bag for a couple days, then store it somewhere dry. If bugs hatch out, you will see their little webby cocoons, and you can feed the squirrels and blue jays.
Thanks sparrowgrass. I would not have guessed that freezing for a couple days would kill the eggs. That and your gallon ziplock idea make this workable.

You have an open invitation to dinner whenever you want.
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Old 06-24-2006, 10:58 AM   #10
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goolgle dent corn and take waltonfeed.com it will tell you about different grans. The more you know the better. Be carful some corns and grans are treated you don't wan't that. co op is your best bet. We bought 100 Lb soft wheat hear in eastern kan. We put it freezer bags and froze it my corn to. on Ebay try networkguyinphx he had hopi native american blue corn thay a nice variety.
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