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Bloody Butcher Corn

Bloody Butcher Corn
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Bob Bowles

A friend phoned me many months ago and asked, “Have you ever heard of Bloody Butcher Corn?” I had not, but I had a pretty good idea why he was asking. Many of our conversations centered on the ancient art of mountain moonshine.

At a late-night gathering of friends several weeks later, our conversation returned to the topic of Bloody Butcher Corn. “Wait,” he said, and a few minutes later he brought out a pint jar of clear liquid. “This is made from Bloody Butcher Corn and lightly flavored with herbs.” The pint jar quietly made its rounds and everyone agreed that this was the real thing. It was so smooth going down! Now I really wanted to know more about the Bloody Butcher Corn.

In researching Bloody Butcher Corn, I discovered that it has a rich history. It’s a blood-red corn originating in the 1800s by mixing Native American corn with the white settlers’ seed. You often see it decorating the front doors of mountain homes when the air turns crisp, and being used in culinary dishes by some of the world’s renowned chefs.

Armed with this knowledge, my next task was to find a local source for this corn, to taste it, and then to grow some. As a heritage plant, it should be fairly disease- and pest-resistant, and it should respond well to the local climate. Everywhere I looked, not a seed could be found! Then, late one night while reading the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project (ASAP) Listserv, I saw a small advertisement for Bloody Butcher Cornmeal. Well, let’s follow up with this and see where it leads. This was how I was introduced to Yancey Fox Farms near Burnsville.

Yancey Fox Farms is a working farm that grows many products, such as heirloom corns including the Bloody Butcher Corn. Most of what they grow is for seed, bulk sales, and for fresh-ground cornmeal. Farm owner Susan Fox said, “We are seed savers and have a seed dealer’s license. We use the seeds we save, and also sell seeds we have in excess. We are native to these mountains, so we are all about keeping our heritage alive and doing things the old way. We even take the husks from the Bloody Butcher Corn and make faceless corn husk dolls.”

Susan and husband Alan have always farmed to some degree, as did their families. They are an Animal Welfare Approved goat dairy farm, sell “Animal Feed” milk and have a “Goats on the Go” rental service. They make homemade goat milk soap, Farm Fresh Flower Essence Jellies from edible flowers, and traditional berry/fruit jams. You can also buy blackberries, red and black raspberries, gooseberries, blueberries, mulberries, and apples. They grow lettuce, Swiss chard, beets, radishes, carrots, peas, beans, corn, heirloom tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, squash, pumpkins, turnips, sorghum, luffa gourds, and herbs, just to name a few!

Alan, a taxidermist, also makes Native American style drums from bushel gourds and brain-tanned deer hides. He also makes knives, as well as traditional tear-shaped dream catchers of grapevine and Bladed Kyanite stones that they hand-mine on the farm. Their produce and crafts are certified “Appalachian Grown” and listed with HandMade In America, NCFresh, NC Agritourism, and YanceyGrown. You can find Susan and Alan’s products at restaurants, farmers' markets, at the farm, and online at www.localharvest.org.

I was disappointed to learn that they had sold out of all the Bloody Butcher Corn and cornmeal for this year but they promise to plant a lot more in 2011. It seems that this corn has come into such demand recently that it is difficult to find, and we will have to wait until summer to try it. I know several people who plan to grow this corn. Let’s hope it is a bountiful year and, as the old mountain saying goes, “…so much corn that I had to pack it out of the mountains in mason jars.”

yanceyfoxfarms@frontier.com

www.localharvest.org

http://www.wvfarm2u.org/culture/folklife/bloodybutcher.aspx

www.asapconnections.org

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