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Vegetables :






Corn The Great American Cereal
Corn and the Early Colonies

2 Corn and the Indian
3a Photos - Corn & Tools
3b Photos - Indians in corn fields
4a Photos - Corn Drying & Hopi field
4b Photos - Mortar and Pestles
5 Kinds of Corn Grown by the Indians.
6 Primitive Seed-testing Methods.
The Nettle Seed Tester
7 Primitive Corn-Planting Methods
8 Indian Cornfields
Primitive Tools
9 Plants as Indicators of the Season
10 Seed Selection and Storing

Indian Corn Foods


Primitive and Modern Methods of Culture
13 Corn and the Westward Movement
14 Corn and the Packing Industry
15 The Silo and the Corn Crop
16 Variations of the Corn Plant
17 Corn and the Struggle for Democracy



From the Yearbook of the United States Department of Agriculture 1918
page 6

By H. Howard Biggar,
Office of Corn Investigations, Bureau of Plant Industry.


   Various methods of testing the germination of seed corn were practiced by the Indian tribes. On the Red Lake Reservation in northern Minnesota, corn was grown along the borders of Red Lake. The locality is more or less densely wooded; hence, use was made of moss in germinating seed previous to planting. A box was filled with moss, and kernels of corn were placed in the moss. The whole as soaked in water for a time and then set in a warm place until the kernels sprouted. Dead kernels were discarded, and the sprouted kernels were planted. Other tribes made willow baskets, filled them with kernels of corn, poured water through the corn, and placed the baskets in a warm place to start germination. Among the northern and western tribes, it seems to have been a general custom to soak the kernels of corn previous to planting, the object being to hasten the germination of the seed.
   In connection with the soaking of the kernels, superstition played a conspicuous part. The older women of the tribes placed various substances in the water in which the corn was soaked. These substances were believed to influence the behavior of the future plant in the field and to insure its being free from plant diseases and other enemies. As an example of this might be cited the use of the ground plum (Astragalus caryocarpus). The ground plus is prolific, bearing many fruits, and it was the belief that its use in this connection would insure prolific corn crops.


   It may be a surprise to many to know that a method of germination somewhat similar to our modern rag-doll seed germinator was used by middle-western tribes. The material used in this tester was the stem of the slender nettle (Urtica gracilis). It was used in the following manner:
   When the time for planting corn was at hand, quantities of the nettle were gathered. They were piled in a sort of mat, and on this mat the kernels were placed. The mat of nettles was then rolled up so that it made a cylindrical bundle, with the corn kernels on the inside. The bundle was tied around with strings cut from buffalo hide and then immersed in water. After soaking for a day or two, the bundle of nettles was wrapped in a buffalo skin or other covering and kept warm. In a few days, the kernels sprouted, and when the sprouts were a quarter of an inch or more long they were planted. Kernels not sprouting or showing swollen germs were not planted.
   The slender nettle was used for this purpose because it was the first plant to reach any considerable height by corn-planting time. Furthermore, the fact that the plant was protected by stinging hairs, or spines, gave the Indians the idea that corn germinated with it would be protected from plant enemies during the growing season.


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