Flint corn
Flint corn is named for its hard kernels, which come in a multitude of colors
SpeciesZea mays
VarietyZea mays var. indurata

Flint corn (Zea mays var. indurata; also known as Indian corn or sometimes calico corn) is a variant of maize, the same species as common corn.[1] Because each kernel has a hard outer layer to protect the soft endosperm, it is likened to being hard as flint, hence the name.[2] The six major types of corn are dent corn, flint corn, pod corn, popcorn, flour corn, and sweet corn.[3]


With less soft starch than dent corn (Zea mays indentata), flint corn does not have the dents in each kernel from which dent corn gets its name.[4] This is one of the three types of corn cultivated by Native Americans, both in New England and across the northern tier, including tribes such as the Pawnee on the Great Plains. Archaeologists have found evidence of such corn cultivation in what is now the United States before 1000 BC.[5] Corn was originally domesticated in Mexico by native peoples about 9,000 years ago. They used many generations of selective breeding to transform a wild teosinte grass with small grains into the rich source of food that is modern Zea mays.[citation needed]

Distinctive traits

Because flint corn has a very low water content, it is more resistant to freezing than other vegetables. It was the only Vermont crop to survive New England's infamous "Year Without a Summer" of 1816.[6]


The coloration of flint corn is often different from white and yellow dent corns, many of which were bred later. Most flint corn is multi-colored. Like the Linnaeus variant of maize, any kernel may contain the yellow pigment zeaxanthin but at more varying concentrations.[7]

Glass Gem Corn

Regional varieties with specific coloration include blue corn and purple corn. Glass Gem corn became internet famous in 2012 when photos of this brightly colored flint corn went viral.[8]


Popcorn (Zea mays everta, "corn turned inside out") is considered a variant of this type. It has a hard, slightly translucent kernel.[9]

Flint corn is also the type of corn preferred for making hominy, a staple food in the Americas since pre-Columbian times.

In the United States the flint corn cultivars that have large proportions of kernels with hues outside the yellow range are primarily used ornamentally as part of Thanksgiving decorations. They are often called either "ornamental corn" or "Indian corn", although each of those names has other meanings as well. These varieties can be popped and eaten as popcorn, although many people incorrectly believe that such colored varieties are not palatable or are poisonous.


  1. ^ jugalbandi.info Indian Corn
  2. ^ "Seeds of Change Garden". www.mnh.si.edu. Archived from the original on July 22, 2009. Retrieved 2010-03-17.
  3. ^ Linda Campbell Franklin, "Corn," in Andrew F. Smith (ed.), The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America. 2nd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013 (pp. 551–558), p. 553.
  4. ^ nmsu.edu Archived April 3, 2011, at the Wayback Machine Blue Corn Unique to American Southwest
  5. ^ [1], Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1965; reprint 1977, pp. 4–8, accessed 16 Dec 2009
  6. ^ slowfoodusa.org Archived 2013-08-23 at the Wayback Machine Roy's Calais flint corn. Retrieved August 2011
  7. ^ mnh.si.edu Archived July 22, 2009, at the Wayback Machine What kinds of corn are there?
  8. ^ "Glass Gem Corn". Native-Seeds-Search. Retrieved 2023-11-21.
  9. ^ New Oxford American Dictionary