The Otto File, also known as the eight-row flint corn, originated in New England. It was one of the hyper-adapted regional cultivars being used by the northeastern Native American tribes hundred of years ago. The corn then caught on with settlers in New England because it was both palatable and nutritious.
In the 19th century, the grain was exported to Italy, where it was prized as a flavorful polenta corn. Today, chefs are becoming more aware of its delicious creamy taste, including Chef Dan Barber of Blue Hill restaurant at Stone Barns. The variety is now becoming more popular, especially sought after by those pursing great flavor.
As its name suggests, the Otto File has eight rows of kernels and has hard, rounded, flat kernels with a soft and starchy endosperm completely enclosed by a hard outer layer. Heirloom corn varieties have seeds that are open-pollinated, non-hybrids. This particular variety of open-pollinated corn typically grows six to seven feet tall and produces a long and narrow cob. The cob itself can grow to about eight to twelve inches long, with kernels that vary in color from golden yellow to dark maroon red. The vibrancy of its color pigments, especially the yellowish-orange color, is indicative of high concentration of beneficial phytonutrients called carotenoids, which makes them more nutritious. In addition, the New England eight-row flint corn also has a significantly higher protein content than most other conventional corn.
However, having a higher protein content also makes the New England eight-row flint corn more perishable, making it difficult for farmers to store, which is why many farmers choose not to grow this variety of corn. In addition, the New England eight-row flint corn is a low-yield corn; it does not produce as many cobs as conventional corn varieties – the New England eight-row flint corn produces eighteen to twenty-two thousand plants per acre range compared to twenty-eight to thirty-two thousand plants per acre range.