the early Texas settlers, raising corn was a matter of life or death. Survival
often depended on how much corn you raised for food or sale. They selected only
the best grain for seed, guarded it like treasure and prayed for it to mature
A second use was almost as important as corn was a good feed
for livestock, especially the work horses and mules pulling the plows.
After planting three grains of corn to a hill, they watched carefully as the plants
They taught children to check each hill, pull out the suckers or
weaker plants leaving only the most vigorous stalks to grow.
looked forward to fresh roasting ears as the crop neared maturity. Some waited
for the tassel at the top to dry then cut the stalk off just above the highest
ear and fed these tops to their cattle or horses.
When the ear matured
past the tender roasting ear stage, it was allowed to mature to be picked, shucked,
shelled and stored to be eventually ground into corn meal. Corn shucks were used
in crude mattresses and corn cobs used to caulk between logs in buildings and
burn for heat.
Corn meal could be mixed with water and salt and cooked
in many ways. If working out on the prairie, small balls of cornmeal dough could
be dropped into the ashes of a campfire and cooked. When done, the ashes were
brushed off and eaten as "ash cake."
If working out in the fields, the
small balls of dough could be baked on a garden hoe and eaten as "hoe cake."
placed in a greased skillet and cooked, it was called "johnny cake."
baked in a Dutch oven, it was called "corn pone or corn dodgers."
eggs or milk was added to the dough, it was called "fancy cake."
could be boiled in a mild lye solution to loosen the hard outside skin of the
kernel and washed to become hominy, used as a side dish to meals.
hominy was ground and cooked it became "grits" which was a Southern breakfast
Black-eyed peas or cow peas were another important
crop for settlers. Like corn, peas were for both people and livestock. Dried cow
pea pods were gathered into gunny sacks and hung in root cellars.
needed, the sacks were laid on the ground for children to romp on while playing.
The sack contents were then winded, separating chaff from peas and cooked for
a side dish with bits of pork.
Another important crop was gourds.
Though not edible, the wild crop grew into many shapes and sizes and could be
trained in shape as they grew.
They made dippers, ladles, spoons, bowls,
dishes and storage containers. When the gourd dried, it was picked, a hole cut
somewhere, filled with sugar water for a few minutes and laid beside a red ant
The critters would clean the insides in a short time allowing for
When completely dried, lids or stoppers were made with melted
wax for sealing, handles or strings attached for hanging, outsides painted for
whatever use you might desire. It was almost like hosting a modern-day Tupperware
"It's All Trew" November
23, 2010 column
Delbert Trew is a freelance writer and retired rancher. He
can be reached at 806-779-3164, by mail at Box A, Alanreed, TX 79002, or by e-mail
at email@example.com. For books see DelbertTrew.com. His column appears