Appalachia Appalachian Dialect Gardening

The Corn is Tassling

Tasseling corn in appalachia

Corn tasseling in Brasstown NC, 2016

tassel noun variant form of tossel.
1966-68 DARE (Brasstown NC, Spruce Pine NC).  1999 Montogomery Coll. (Cardwell)

Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English

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Our Sow True Seed Trucker’s Favorite Corn has been tasseling for about 2 weeks. I’m anxious to see what it tastes like. We have been enjoying the bounty of farmer Tim’s garden down the road. He’s had Silver Queen coming in for about 3 weeks now.

When I was a little girl I’d go between the corn rows in Pap’s garden and pretend I was in a magical kingdom where bees talked and morning glories wound their tendrils around my arms and legs. Actually, the last time I did that I was a grown woman with 2 girls of her own…but don’t spread that around.

Here’s a video I took several years ago in Pap’s big garden.

I hope you could hear the bees at work. Seemed like once I started videoing every jar fly in the holler started up

Tipper

 

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24 Comments

  • Reply
    Tipper
    August 1, 2016 at 1:12 pm

    Betty-Folks here still grow Hickory Cane. Granny and Pap used to grow a few rows and they made hominy with the corn. 
    For the signs for fermenting, we think it works best when the sign is in the head or neck. In August the dates are: (in the head) Sunday August 21, Monday August 22. (in the neck) August 23 and August 24. 
    I hope this helps! Have a great evening!

  • Reply
    Glenda Beall
    July 29, 2016 at 7:43 pm

    I love this post and the memories it brings to me. My sister, Gay, and I used to play in the corn patch. I would braid the corn silks pretending they were the golden hair of a beautiful princess. Now how is that for imagination? I remember how the corn could cut your arms if you weren’t careful and I know how to pull corn, not pick it. There is a special technique that gives you just the ear and leaves some of the husks on the plant. My father grew the best corn and, like Jim said, my mother fried it in her black skillet with fat from side meat. Daddy liked hoe cake cornbread and I love it to this day, but can’t make it like my mother did. Slathered with real home made butter and eaten with fresh tomato and the corn was the most delicious meal I ever had. Love your video.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    July 29, 2016 at 7:06 am

    Tipper—I’m late to the table, so to speak, but in response to Betty Richards’ thoughts on Hickory Cane, it was a favorite type of corn in yesteryear in the Smokies. Grandpa Joe swore by it when it came to fattening hogs and feeding chickens, and to my way of thinking when it was “in the milk” it couldn’t be beat as roastin’ ears on the table. Problem was, Hickory Cane soon turned to starch, not holding in the milk stage nearly as long as some of the modern eating varieties. On the other hand, once it began to go to starch, Grandma made fried corn using grease from fatback, and it was scrumptious. It wasn’t really fried other than being cooking in a frying pan, but rather stewed. A plate covered with it, with a couple of slices of a Marglobe tomato on top, a piece of cornbread slathered with butter on the side, and one or two pieces of streaked meat (same thing as fatback, streak-of-lean, sidemeat, etc.) fried until it was crisp, was so good it would bring tears of culinary joy to a glass eye.
    It’s your fault (and Betty’s)—I’ve done gone and got myself to drooling just thinking about such fixin’s.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    July 28, 2016 at 4:16 pm

    My first planting of Silver Queen has been bearing for about three weeks also and my second planting is now in full tassel. Every time I see all the Honey Bees working the Corn Tassels I am reminded of something my Dad taught me, he was an excellent Apiarist & Apiculturist and in fact was offered a scholarship upon graduation from high school which he had to decline to help his widowed mother raise his two younger brothers and then help Uncle Sam win WWII. He pointed out to me that Sourwood Trees bloomed at about the same time that corn tasseled and if I would notice there was always more Honey Bees on corn tassels than could be seen on the Sourwood blooms. He felt that much of the Honey being sold as Sourwood was actually Corn Tassel Honey, many Apiarists will disagree with this statement but I tend to agree with Dad. This is on reason that Honey cannot be marketed as Pure Sourwood Honey but must be marketed as simply Pure Honey. I have watched for the number of bees working each for six decades and find that my Dad was correct on the number of bees working each. I have also found that whether it’s Corn Honey or Sourwood it’s a wonderful gift from these very beneficial insects only coming in second behind Locust Honey which comes in first since Locust Trees bloom earlier than Sourwood and before the corn tassels.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    July 28, 2016 at 2:49 pm

    The Pterophylla camellifolia here alternate between “Katie-did” and “Corie-did!”

  • Reply
    Yancey
    July 28, 2016 at 2:20 pm

    Tipper;
    Cool video. I love the smell of corn tasseling. Mine started 2-3 weeks ago and now the ears are starting to swell pretty good. Tried one a couple of days ago but it still needed another week or so to fill out.
    Last year I planted Bloody Butcher which dates back to 1844 or further. Great producer not bothered too much by bugs or critters. This year I found seed for Holcombe’s Prolific, another 1800’s Southern Appalachian variety valued for both “roastin’ ears”, meal, stock feed, and was a favorite “likker corn”. I was never able to find this variety anywhere on the internet, so my hope is to help get it back in circulation both sharing with friends, and working with Seed Savers whom I met this year at the Mother Earth News Fair in Asheville.
    Love your blog and how much we’re alike since I grew up in the Foothills of the Blue Ridge in Mount Airy, NC.
    Keep up the good work!

  • Reply
    Ken
    July 28, 2016 at 1:35 pm

    Tipper,
    I really enjoyed the video of honey bees doing their Pollinating thing in the corn. I remember when I was a kid, the sounds of bees and jar flies up at Hub Holloway’s. He had about 3 rows of honey bees real close to his basement door. That’s where he made homeade whisky, in the basement. In the front was a store, and his wife Lorie,
    cut my hair. But all them bees kept someone from seeing him, and the Law was afraid to go inside. Them bees wouldn’t even sting ole Hub, but it was a different story if someone else wandered near…Ken

  • Reply
    Sherry
    July 28, 2016 at 1:29 pm

    What a lovely sound! It is so great to see some bees!

  • Reply
    Leslie
    July 28, 2016 at 12:24 pm

    Love the video!

  • Reply
    Quinn
    July 28, 2016 at 12:18 pm

    My goodness I thought I had plenty of bees here, but I see them just a few at a time, throughout a plot of whatever they’re visiting…squash plants, bee balm, etc. That video really changed my view of what “plenty of bees” looks like!

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    July 28, 2016 at 12:01 pm

    There is about a half acre garden between here and the post office in which an old couple used to grow all kinds of different vegetables. For many years I have watched their garden grow. For the last few years they have had only one crop. Last year was cucumbers. This year it was sweet corn. It is a fertile little field and having perfect conditions this year, all their corn came up at the same time and tosseled likewise.
    So to make a long story shorter, the other day I drove by and noticed that although the wind had blown over some, the corn was about ready. Two days later I drove by and the corn was gone, gathered, harvested, and the stalks had been chopped up. Even at half of Ethelene’s dad’s yield, that still comes out to a lot of sweet corn to handle in one day.
    b. Ruth – In a world becoming more and more GMO, hand pollinating corn may become the norm for seed savers. In the past I have seen farmers and gardeners do something similar to your urban gardener in order to do some selective seed saving. They would cover the silks of the corn they wanted to save with a paper bag, then cut a tossel from another good looking candidate, catch a moment when the air was still and shake the pollen on the silks. With all the GMO pollen wafting through the air these days, that could become the only way.

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    July 28, 2016 at 11:00 am

    We’ve finished off the first setting of corn and are on the second. The first was Peaches and Cream. It produced well, but it’s not as tasty as Silver Queen which is what I normally grow. I intended to plant Ambrosia in the second setting, but got Peaches and Cream again. One good thing about it is that it doesn’t seem to go to starch quite as quickly as Silver Queen. We’ve got a third setting which is definitely Ambrosia. I’ve never had it before either, but have heard it’s really good.
    I’ve noticed that honey bees dominate in working on corn tassels. We get a few bumblebees in amongst them, but not many. However, I seldom see honey bees on bean, squash or pumpkin blooms.
    b. Ruth, if you didn’t hear the jar flies, you may be like Jack and have a high frequency hearing loss. I enjoy hearing jar flies tune up, rising to a crescendo before fading away. I also love, of an evening, listening to “katy did” and “no she didn’t”. I also enjoy a bit of whippoorwill – as long as I can get inside and shut it off.
    Corntassel was – and maybe still is – a fairly common name used by Cherokees. There’s a section on Deep Creek in the vicinity of the turnaround which was referred to in early deeds as “the Corntassel place”

  • Reply
    Paula Rhodarmer
    July 28, 2016 at 10:48 am

    Tipper, I absolutely love this video! The drought got my corn this year so I will have to buy some. The sights, sounds, and smell of the gardens and fields have a way of nurturing the soul. I hope and pray I never get to “broken down” to plant and work in my garden.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    July 28, 2016 at 9:25 am

    Beautiful

  • Reply
    Betty Richards
    July 28, 2016 at 8:47 am

    We used to eat a lot of Hickory Cane corn When I was growing up in West Virginia but never see any, anymore. Are you familiar with it? Each ear had 8 rows of big kernels. People also made Hominy out of it.
    Enjoy your emails so much. By the way, when is the dates to pickle corn and beans?
    Thank you, Betty

  • Reply
    Betty Richards
    July 28, 2016 at 8:47 am

    We used to eat a lot of Hickory Cane corn When I was growing up in West Virginia but never see any, anymore. Are you familiar with it? Each ear had 8 rows of big kernels. People also made Hominy out of it.
    Enjoy your emails so much. By the way, when is the dates to pickle corn and beans?
    Thank you, Betty

  • Reply
    Betty Richards
    July 28, 2016 at 8:47 am

    We used to eat a lot of Hickory Cane corn When I was growing up in West Virginia but never see any, anymore. Are you familiar with it? Each ear had 8 rows of big kernels. People also made Hominy out of it.
    Enjoy your emails so much. By the way, when is the dates to pickle corn and beans?
    Thank you, Betty

  • Reply
    Betty Richards
    July 28, 2016 at 8:47 am

    We used to eat a lot of Hickory Cane corn When I was growing up in West Virginia but never see any, anymore. Are you familiar with it? Each ear had 8 rows of big kernels. People also made Hominy out of it.
    Enjoy your emails so much. By the way, when is the dates to pickle corn and beans?
    Thank you, Betty

  • Reply
    anita griffith
    July 28, 2016 at 8:46 am

    My silver queen is just now tasseling,got it out late
    Love the sound of those bees.I use to have a stand of bees,but somebody actually stole them.I haven’t fooled with them since,I may have to,i’m not seeing the number of bees i use to.

  • Reply
    Jack
    July 28, 2016 at 8:28 am

    I have a high frequency hearing loss and can’t hear jar flies. Some people think that’s a good thing.

  • Reply
    Ethelene Dyer Jones
    July 28, 2016 at 8:23 am

    Tipper, You made me homesick this morning with sweet remembrances of my own Dad’s rows of corn, the honey bees and the buzzing creatures that helped to pollinate our corn patch–as well as the acres and acres in the fields that yielded the 100 bushels per acre that my father, Jewel Marion Dyer, was the first farmer in Union County recognized for this prolific yield! A plaque in the “Agriculture Hall of Fame” in Union County, Georgia honors him as a master farmer–in the 100-Bushels per Acre Club–and also a Master Sorghum Syrup maker–with over 3,000 gallons boiled off from making for neighbors far and wide at his syrup mill. But hearing those bees on your video was akin to being home again and enjoying the bounty of land and work. And i also identified with you in your poetical remembrance of talking bees and morning glory tendrils coming to say “happy morning to you!” These are things after my own heart, too. Oh! to grow up in the country where the sky’s the limit, the creatures of natures are your playmates, and the earth yields its increase to the knowing touch of the farmer’s work! Thank you!

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    July 28, 2016 at 8:14 am

    Tip, that’s mesmerizing, a very soothing sound I could listen to all day. Tim’s corn is soooo good this year. If course Silver Queen has always been my favorite. I’m also anxious to try the Truckers Favorite.
    I love when we can get all these wonderful really fresh vegetables!

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    July 28, 2016 at 8:07 am

    The smell of corn pollen, especially if driving along a back road at night with the window down, is one of those distinctive smells of summer.
    The bees do love corn bloom. My corn was short so the bloom was just about head high. But the bees minded their business and I minded mine. I’m very late to see the bees. However, if they talked to me I didn’t understand.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    July 28, 2016 at 7:25 am

    Tipper,
    With that many bees around I’d for sure get me a hive or two. Mercy you are blessed with a bunch of honey bees.
    When we lived in the city, we had a friend that loved corn. So, he planted him some sweet corn from on of those itty bitty packages. As you know corn needs at least a few rows of neighbors, however short for a multiple of reasons, but mainly for help with pollination by the bees. Well, this neighbor became very afraid his corn would not make, even though he had a few bees. But his little postage stamp plot was blocked by the wind that also helps in pollination with the next door row neighbor. So after the corn began to bloom, every morning about sunrise, you would see him in his bathrobe walking along those eight foot rows. He would give each stalk a good shake to scatter the pollen! I’m not saying that was a bad idea. For I don’t think it was. However, it was a funny, funny sight just watching him every morning. Did his corn produce! Sure it did and he shared a few of his precious ears with us!
    Thanks Tipper
    PS…I didn’t hear the jar fly, well maybe once the call as it begins to fade, but I sure loved hearing and seeing the honey bees.
    PS 2 My neighbor later that year, began his interest in bee keeping and purchased a hive. Guess he wasn’t too keen on doing pollination support every morning! ha

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