MAIZ OTTOFILE (OTTOFILE CORN)
By Quintina Valero
Farmers from Italy and Africa are working together in Villa Quaglina, a refugee camp in the outskirts of Asti (Italy) producing polenta from Otto file corn, also knows as the eight-row flint corn. This project shows the resulting symbioses between locals and migrants with a positive impact on the food system.
In Piedmont, the polenta, until the '50s, was an essential part of the daily diet. The Otto file corn was imported to Italy in the 19th century from New England where Native American tribes cultivated it from centuries. In Italy, farmers selected strictly corn to get the most excellent organoleptic qualities for the polenta.
This corn with colour ranges from yellow to chopped red and spike cylindrical eight files, is cultivated with traditional methods. The corn is harvested by hand without using herbicides or pesticides. The grinding stone enhances the organoleptic characteristics of the cereal flour and leave in all the components of the grain.
After World War II, the Otto file corn was replaced by hybrid varieties of American origin for greater simplicity in the cultivation and increased production. In the early 80s, the Otto file corn was saved from extinction thanks to the desire of local Italian farmers like Nandino Destefani, now 75 years old.
Nandino and African farmers like Madimodi, Karamo and Friday are developing and expanding its agricultural activity. Madimodi, a refugee from Mali, arrived in Italy after fleeing the Northern Mali conflict in 2012. African migrants coming from countries immersed in wars are the ones helping to rescue those forgotten crops.