Author Topic: Magic Manna  (Read 912 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 »

triffid

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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!

reed

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Re: Magic Manna
« Reply #4 on: 2019-04-25, 04:39:14 PM »
If I remember right Magic Manna was derived from Painted Mountain. However MM grows much better here in Indiana than does PM, that's kind of interesting I think.
One thing I wonder about is how hard it was and how long it took to get rid of the aleurone color in PM to give the single color ears of MM.

Carol Deppe

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Re: Magic Manna
« Reply #5 on: 2019-04-25, 07:18:21 PM »
Hello Reed--

The hardest part of breeding Magic Manna is I had to figure out what all the colors tasted like. So I hand sorted hundreds of kernels of different colors. Then using a file on nail clippers, I filed off a little bit of the pericarp on each of the seeds that had pericarp color so as to identify every seed's flint color as white or yellow and aleurone color as clear or black or lavender. Then I planted a small block of every color. All that did was give me a bigger proportion of the starting color. So I spent huge amounts of time hand sorting the resulting ears and kernels to get enough to make a small batch of cornbread with each pure color. I also parched some of each color, since a big thing I wanted was great parching corn. So for parching corn, I figured out that to get good flavor as well as parch nicely without a tendency to burn, the tiny amt of flinty layer had to be white, not yellow; the aleurone had to be clear or lavender; and the pericarp had to be red or pink. A good parching corn always had white flinty layer. But there were three possibilities otherwise, all of which give dramatically different flavor classes when parched. Red/pink pericarp, red-striped pericarp, or lavender aleurone. (Or some combination of those.) Lavender aleurone seems to be purple (black) but with a recessive modifier. The different colors all tasted good as cornbread or corncakes. So from there I designed a combination of pericarp colors with underlying white aleurone and white endosperm that would give me solid ears where each color would have specific flavors and purposes so you could fill many culinary niches with just one corn patch. And if you liked certain uses, you could easily just select more of that. Those colors involving white endosperm, white, aleurone, and red/pink or brown pericarp also gave me most of my favorite flavors for cornbread.

Painted Mountain was variable for pericarp color, being either cloudy opaque/white/clear, clear, red, pink, red-striped, or brown. I selected against the opaque/cloudy pericarp because it makes the underlying colors look dull, so makes the corn less attractive as an ornamental. I separated red-stripe pericarp off into a separate variety, as too many pericarp colors cause confused flavor profiles and mess up using different colors for different purposes as you get too many mixed colors. I left the brown-striped pericarp in there; it's my favorite for gravy. It and red-stripe are the only ones that don't have a sweetish flavor; they are the best for non-sweet cornbread and gravy. I left clear pericarp in because with underlying white colors and a little added sugar, it has a distinctive pancakey flavor. It's my favorite for making pancakes. And I bred the material to have a lot of red/pink pericarp so that there would be plenty of parching corn.

Since I developed the variety from material I used in those first plantings to evaluate the flavors and uses of different colors, and mass selected from there, it took many years to get rid of the yellow endosperm and black/lavender aleurone. Five or more years. However, there is a much faster easier way to do it.

If I were developing something like Magic Manna from Painted Mountain these days, I would simply pick out and plant hundreds of pure white kernels. That would eliminate nearly all the yellow endosperm and black/lavender aleurone in one step. (It wouldn't quite get rid of all the yellow endosperm, because you can't always tell heterozygous yellows from whites; you really can't tell with indoors lighting; do the sorting in full sun.)(Also, there are modifiers that can lighten the yellow making it harder to identify; so you don't get rid of all the yellow just by sorting and planting only white kernels. But you can get rid of most of it.) (It would get rid of nearly all but not all the black/lavender aleurone, because heterozygotes can be mosaics that can have variable amounts of expression of purple/lavender/black all the way from lots to so little you miss it when sorting.)

Since the pericarp colors are maternally inherited, those sorted white kernels all had mothers who had no pericarp color genes. But the pollen would have brought in genes for pericarp color. So many of those white kernels are heterozygous for the pericarp color genes (which appear to be dominant). Since the mother plant makes all the pericarps on the ear, you don't get to see the genetics of the individual kernels with respect to pericarp color until the next generations. So if you planted lots of white kernels from Painted Mountain, you should get plenty of red/pink-pericarp ears, plenty of red-striped-pericarp ears, plenty of brown-pericarp ears, and plenty of pure white ears. And you should be able to get rid of nearly all the yellow endosperm and black/purple/lavender aleurone during the sorting step so that after you grow out the hand-sorted white kernels, there will be very little colored aleurone or endosperm.

Then you examine whole ears from your first grow-out and get rid of all that show segregation for yellow (obvious in whole white ears, much less obvious in individual kernels). And get rid of all ears that show segregation for black/lavender/purple, also much more obvious in whole ears. Pick any off type kernels out of any white ears you keep. And out of the pericarp color ears to the extent that you can identify them.

So go ahead with kernels from the pericarp color ears of the types you want plus white ears.

It's best to retain a mix of white and pericarp colors, because the pericarp color genes have a genetic load. That is, when plants are homozygous for them it hurts yield. The plants are smaller and wimpier, and the ears are much smaller. So if you select for pure homozygous red, you will have a patch that has dramatically lower yield with dramatically smaller ears--about half the size of normal ears--a big difference. However, those homozygous red-pericarp kernels/ears--which are a deep almost black-looking red--are absolutely the most delicious parching corn. So I like Magic Manna to have high enough gene frequencies for red-pericarp that I do get some of the deep red ears, just not too many.

« Last Edit: 2019-04-25, 07:23:30 PM by Carol Deppe »

Carol Deppe

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Re: Magic Manna
« Reply #6 on: 2019-04-25, 08:05:13 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!

We plant Magic Manna the first half of May here in Corvallis, Oregon. That's much later than necessary. My main cooperating grower has trouble with a pest called symphylans in his field, and they are much more of a problem when we plant earlier. Magic Manna has good freeze resistance and ability to grow in the cold, though. So you can plant it before your last freezes. And if you presoak the seed to break dormancy inside, you don't even need much warmth during the planting period.

If you want to cross Magic Manna to something else to develop similar varieties with better yield or adaptation for your situation, such as with Pueblo Blue flour corn, the trick is that you really don't want the black/blue aleurone at all. And it's pretty near impossible to identify and select against blue aleurone when it is buried underneath a red or brown pericarp. So I'd suggest you combine all the rest of the genetics of Magic Manna except the pericarp genes with the Blue corn genes. Then remove the blue (Purple) genes. Then add the pericarp genes. Since the pericarp genes are dominant, it's easier than it sounds.

So what I'd do is sort a bunch of white kernels from Magic Manna. Some of these will be homozygous for clear pericarp, which is what we want at this point. Some will be heterozygous for pericarp color, but not showing any because the mother plant's genes, not the kernels genes, make the pericarp. So interplant rows of white kernels from MM with your blue corn. Detassel the MM. The MM ears should all be various shades of kernels that are blue or blue speckled, some ears with pericarp color some without. You want the ears without pericarp color. Plant those out to get an F2.

That F2 should be all ears with clear pericarp, but segregating for blue/black/speckled aleurone. Now you have to pick the white kernels out of those ears. Plant those to give yourself another generation to get rid of any black you might have missed. You do that by hand picking any black/blue/lavender/purple/specked kernels out of the whole ears where there are just a few. If there are lots, discard the entire ear. So that should give you pure white material that is an F3 of MM and your blue corn except for Purple and anything closely linked to Purple, which would have been eliminated. Let's call that material Blueless Blue. It's a white flour corn that is genetically half MM and half Blue except for the blue/purple gene and anything closely linked to it.

Take your nice white F3 Blueless Blue and interplant it with the desired colors of colored-pericarp kernels from MM. Detassel Magic Manna. The resulting ears will be either white or colored-pericarp. And with the desired white aleurone and white endosperm. And they will be otherwise genetically 3/4 MM. If you want the material to be genetically 3/4 MM, you just plant out mostly pericarp-color ears and the best white ears, and you will have your variety. And in just four generations.

If you prefer to have the variety be genetically closer to the blue corn, you can backcross that material to the Blueless Blue to get a variety that is 5/8 Magic Manna and has white aleurone, white endosperm, and all the magic pericarp colors you included in the mix.

My own inclination would be to develop the 3/4 MM material by simply growing it out as well as doing a backcross to Blueless Blue by planting a couple of rows of Blueless blue in the field of 3/4 MM material and detasseling them. That would give both a somewhat larger portion of Blue genetics as well as a line that had the Blue cytoplasm instead of the MM cytoplasm. No telling which would be best. You could plant both lines side by side in the same field thereafter. Eat where the blocks come together. Work with both selecting for what you like. See which does best. Or use both in your variety.

Anyway, I think that's how I'd approach trying to combine the virtues of MM with the virtues of a black/blue flour corn brtter adaoted to my region or higher yielding. Exactly the same approach would work with a yellow flour corn. Cross with white MM first, get rid of yellow, then add in pericarp genes. Certainly not the only way. And a lot happens between the plans and what happens in the field. You could do the initial cross, for example, and find you really liked the cross between white MM and the blue corn, and instead develop an earlier blue corn.

There is a trade-off between maturity and yield. MM yields very well for such an early flour corn. There are flour corns that yield better, but in my experience, these are much bigger plants and are much later. I like MM to be that early so it can grow and finish on moisture from winter rains without irrigation. We normally do not get any rain at all in maritime Oregon in the summer. Also, that way the ears dry down in August before our winter rains start, and once we are in the rainy season, flour corn is more likely to mold than dry properly.
« Last Edit: 2019-04-26, 01:56:11 AM by Carol Deppe »