Author Topic: Magic Manna  (Read 164 times)

Olaf Nurlif

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Magic Manna
« on: 2019-03-11, 06:28:11 PM »
I just ate some parched Magic Manna.
And had to start this thread to honor the greatness of this variety!
Thank you Carol Deppe! :)

So, how many of you do grow/have grown it, I would be interested how adaptable and resilient it is in other climates.

We got it from a great seed saver from southern Austria (she got one packet from Carol).
I'm trying to get some more seed from Carol for a bit better genetic base but importing corn seed is a pain...

Well, we now have bags full of it and grow it in our garden in northern Austria in a pannonic climate on loess soil.
We had four severe droughts in the last five years. We usually don't have reliable rainfall from may to august (avg ~500mm/year).
Pair that with several weeks of 30įC+ and you might want to consider to grow Sorghum, not Maize.

But Magic Manna will grow food, even in the worst years.
When the high-input-field-corn-hybrid-varieties start to roll their leaves and yet have to tassel Magic Manna is happily growing and you don't have to bother with hand pollination.

And I always have to imagine that all farmers here would grow Magic Manna (or other equally beautiful/colorful varieties!).
Instead of the hybrid uniformity..
Well, Magic Manna would not be suited for that kind of production schemes of course.
Who would want to combine harvest it. It's much too exciting to husk it manually to discover what color variant awaits.

I think I have yet to perfect the process of parching. I think I have to experiment with different moisture contents.
They don't look as expanded/split as in the pictures in The Resilient Gardener.
But they taste soo good... I like the orange/brown ones parched too, although Carol seems to dislike this color when parched.
Although you cannot deny that the red pericarp ones are the best tasting parched..

Any information and experiences you made with this great variety would be greatly appreciated!

Carol Deppe

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Re: Magic Manna
« Reply #1 on: 2019-03-14, 05:38:37 PM »
Iím delighted you like Magic Manna flour corn so much, Olaf. You might also like Cascade Ruby-Gold flint corn. Cascade Ruby-Gold is even more resilient than Magic Manna. Both are very early and very drought tolerant. But Cascade Ruby-Gold, like most flints, is less vulnerable to insects and mold, and more resilient to rains during harvest. Both make good corn bread. Magic Manna of the right colors is good for parching and Cascade Ruby-Gold isnít. Cascade Ruby-Gold is great for polenta and Magic Manna isnít. Only Magic Manna can be used to make fine textured baked goods such as pancakes and cakes. And, of course, gravy.

My farm collaborator grows both varieties and grinds both for sale in the Saturday market. He sells about ten times more Cascaded Ruby-Gold flint than Magic Manna. Interestingly, few of these customers are making cornbread or any other baked goods. They are using the Cascade Ruby-Gold flint for polenta and the Magic Manna for gravy.

I far prefer Cascade Ruby-Gold for cornbread. I also use a lot of it for polenta. These days I mostly use the Magic Manna for cake, pancakes, and gravy.

To make gravy with Magic Manna, do exactly as you would do to make a cornstarch gravy. However, use about twice as much MM flour as cornstarch and cook it about twice as long. You can use MM flour to make a sauce/gravy for any stir-fry, or to turn any soup into a cream of whatever soup or stew, or as the basic thickener for a stew. The brown ears make the tastiest gravy. The mix is also good. Pure white kernel flour is a bit sweet for gravy, but with a little added sweetener and sour ingredient makes very a very nice sweet and sour sauce.

Both varieties can produce good crops in Willamette Valley, Oregon without irrigation. (We have no rain at all in the summer. So to accomplish that the corn has to be early enough and have good enough root systems to grow and finish off on moisture in the soil left from winter rains.)

If you are planting the corn under low-water or drought conditions, itís helpful to presoak the seed for 24 hours. Then if you mix a little dry soil with the seed it absorbs the water so the seed is free-flowing and easy to handle. (The seed is fully swollen at this point but the roots have not emerged.)

To presoak seed, use excess water and stir several times plus change water a couple times during the soaking. I use 5X to 10X as much water as seed by volume. Otherwise the seed uses up all the oxygen in the water and suffocates. If the seed imbibes water unevenly so that some has and some hasnít, this is usually because only the seed on top got enough oxygen. It means you need more water for that amount of seed, or more stirring, or to change the water more frequently. A traditional way of presoaking much larger amounts of seed was to put it in a mesh bag, tie off the top, and put it in a creek or river for a day (where it would get plenty of oxygenation from the flowing water).

Presoaking is also useful if you are planting so early there is inadequate heat to germinate seed.  It takes more heat for seed to break dormancy than it does for the seed to grow once dormancy is broken. The seedlings themselves have good frost resistance. But if there is near freezing or freezing weather at planting, the seed will likely rot rather than germinate unless it is presoaked. However, the soaking actually breaks seed dormancy. So presoaked seed can handle more erratic weather conditions both with respect to water and temperature.

If you have any specific questions about Magic Manna, ask away. 
« Last Edit: 2019-03-14, 05:42:19 PM by Carol Deppe »


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Re: Magic Manna
« Reply #2 on: 2019-03-15, 02:00:29 PM »
Descriptions of Manna have my mouth watering. Haven't been able to track it down in Europe, but an Irish company Brown Envelope Seeds has Cascade Ruby-Gold available, so I'll definitely give that a try this year. 

I'm very intrigued by the flint & flour corn types and it'll be my first year growing them. It would seem sweetcorn is the only type of maize marketed to British gardeners.

Olaf Nurlif

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Re: Magic Manna
« Reply #3 on: 2019-03-31, 05:11:54 PM »
@triffid: I can send you seed of Magic Manna if you want some. pm me. quickly, maybe brexit will complicate things in the future.

Hi Carol...    *blush*

We grew Cascade Ruby gold twice and it was our main staple for three years. :)
Sadly I could not get foundation grade seed from you and the seed we obtained was crossed up (probably with a lavender and blue flour variety(-ies)). I didn't notice it either, probably was hiding beneath that awesome tasty red pericarp.
Various Polenta dishes made with the red pericarp CRG type is probably my favourite food ever.

Anyways, I never tried cleaning it up because ("our" crossed up strain!!) is very susceptible to fusarium (cob rot) in our agroecological niche.
I guess we have different fusarium strains (pathotypes?) in Europe?
Well, we also grew an Italian variety (Rostrato Rosso, flint/semiflint/dent beaked kernels). I liked the appearance of the cobs filled with those beaked kernels so much that I tossed some pollen around and pollinated it with CRG pollen I stored for almost a month.

Turns out the F1 is very vigorous and tolerant to this cob rot. So I'm breeding a "beaked cascade ruby gold" now with that crossed up strain.
I know, not optimal but It just happened. Maybe If I get some foundation grade seed from you I start new with better known and selected material and a reciprocal cross...

Back to Magic Manna:
Yes! MM Pancakes are awesome indeed.

When do you plant MM in Oregon/at which soil temp? Here we usually sow it in the beginning of may with soil temperature well over 10įC. They burst out of the ground. And still finish flowering before commercial hybrids start to.
But I think I will try the seed priming method this year, very clever.

We are thinking about crossing Magic Manna with "Pueblo Blue Flour" (PI 476869, Origin Arizona). (Well, the plan is to make a "Pueblo White Flour" first without losing too much of the diversity of the landrace but dropping the blue aleurone before crossing it with Magic Manna.)
Although this would probably lead to a somewhat later variety I think this could improve the yield of Magic Manna without losing its special uses.

I will definitively try your method for MM gravy!