Skip to main content

Plant Appalachian Garden Staple Hickory King Corn

Hands holding a small pile of light yellow heirloom dent corn variety Hickory King, grass in background

If you are thinking of raising corn for homemade cornmeal, grits, flour, roasting or hominy, look no further than Hickory King, a variety that has been a staple for more than 100 years in gardens throughout Appalachia.  

Hickory King, sometimes called Hickory Cane, is a popular white dent corn that was introduced close to 150 years ago by A.O. Lee of Hickory, Virginia.  

W. Atlee Burpee wrote about Hickory King in the 1888 Farm Annual, stating, "This new white field corn has proved entirely distinct from all other varieties, and has unquestionably the largest grains, with the smallest cob of any white corn ever introduced." 

This 12-foot variety of dent corn provided enough support for pole beans to climb and thrive on the stalks. Each stalk will produce two ears that are well protected by tightly bound husks that protect the kernels against insect pressures, as well as northern and southern leaf blights. Each ear will have 10 to 12 rows of white kernels on a 9-inch ear.  

Due to the sheer size of the plants, they should have 10 to 12 inches between the plants with a 3-foot row spacing. As these plants are open pollinated, the ample air space will allow for the pollen to fertilize the tassels.  

Seed corn should be planted 1-inch deep using a walk-behind seeder and thinned once plants emerge to about a foot between plants. This variety should reach maturity within 85 to 110 days and be enjoyed by all. To save seed from Hickory King and other open-pollinated corn varieties, isolate the corn from other types of corn by staggering the planting date so other varieties are not tasseling (flowering) at the same time.

By Evan Wilson, ANR Program Coordinator – Mason County