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Thanksgiving Corn

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Corn may not always be visible on the Thanksgiving table, but it's certainly part of the dinner. This crop was unknown to Europeans but was grown by the Pilgrims in their early settlements. It has since become one of the world's most valuable crops. It is widely used for fresh eating and grain but has many more uses. Oil, meal and animal feeds - including turkey feed - all come from this crop. It provides valuable ingredients for baking, food processing and soft drinks. There are only two contemporary accounts of the 1621 Thanksgiving: First is Edward Winslow's account, which he wrote in a letter dated December 12, 1621 and mentioned corn. “Our corn [i.e., wheat] did prove well, and God be praised, we had a good increase of Indian corn, and our barley indifferent good, but our peas not worth the gathering, for we feared they were too late sown. They came up very well, and blossomed, but the sun parched them in the blossom.” The second description was written about twenty years after the fact by William Bradford in his History of Plymouth Plantation. Bradford's History was rediscovered in 1854 after having been taken by British looters during the Revolutionary War. “Besides they had about a peck of meal a week to a person, or now since harvest, Indian corn to that proportion. Which made many afterwards write so largely of their plenty here to their friends in England, which were not feigned but true reports.” Corn on the cob, one of the present day American favorites, was not on the menu. Indian corn or flint corn was only good for making cornmeal, not eating on the cob. Contrary to popular folklore, popcorn was not on the menu at the 1621 Thanksgiving. Indian corn could only be half-popped, and this wouldn't have tasted very good. Popcorn did not come into general us until much later. The corn as used at the time was a flint corn and was ground and prepared as gruel or mush. It would sometimes be sweetened with berries or maple syrup but was not eaten fresh on or off the cob. The corn grown in today's garden is much more productive and flavorful. Varieties adapted for Utah include Jubilee, Phenomenal, How Sweet It Is, Breeders Choice, Sugar Buns and Miracle and many others. As you give thanks this week give thanks for the fact that the United States is the world's most productive agricultural country. Only 2 percent of the population still farms for a living, but all depend on agriculture for food. This holiday traces its origins to food production that sustained life for those early Pilgrims. Each gardener enjoys that special kinship with the soil and with growing plants that were present at that first Thanksgiving. May we all be truly grateful for the many blessings enjoyed throughout the year.

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