Two brothers who saved the Lowcountry's favorite meal corn — Sea Island White Flint

written by david shields

The Walterboro S.C. Press and Standard has an article about Thomas Brothers and Ted Chewning, who grew the landrace White Flint, a variety grown from NC into Florida. The Carolina Gold Rice Foundation has in its seed collection at Clemson's CREC two Florida strains —one deriving from the Creek Nation (Muskogee) preserved in Driscoll County, another used as a forage corn by Cracker Cattle breeders further south. But we didn't have any with a South Carolina pedigree, despite the fact the much of the written record for the corn concerns sea island white flint grown for provision here. 

In 1862 a reporter in the Beaufort district described White Flint Corn as very nutritious and white as snow when cooked, he even went as far as claiming this corn much superior to the common varieties (“Beaufort District: Past, Present, and Future,” The Continental Monthly 1 (1862), p. 383-84.)

According to the Royal Horticultural Society, by the 1860s, White Flint Corn was considered the most delicate for table use and the most valuable in every respect. It was recorded being perfectly ripe at the end of September (Journal of Horticulture and Practical Gardening 19 (1870), p. 511). Ears came into Europe in the mid-19th century, winning prizes at the Paris Exposition, and entering into cultivation schemes in southern France and Italy. in the U.S. Census Report of 1880 the sea island white flint was described as “the finest, as food for man, of all the known varieties.”

It ceased to be widely grown in the second decade of the 20th century — when many other of the field and provision crops of the Lowcountry began to be supplanted. But the Thomas brothers kept it intact — and here is their story. Thank you, and thank you Ted Chewning. 

Sea Island White Flint corn is on the global Slow Food Ark of Taste, a register of the most delicious, historically resonant, and imperiled foods.

Thomas brothers help create heirloom seed project

THE PRESS AND STANDARD | August 26, 2016 5:00 AM


Two Smoaks area brothers have fed Ted Chewning’s constant craving for heirloom crops.
Chewning, the Colleton County Farmers Market Manager who recently decided to resign that post, wants to spend more time working his farm and playing a role in resurrecting heirloom seeds. He plans to spend more time building up his collection of seeds from the Thomas Brothers Collection.

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