Corn (Maize) is normally classed as a grain, however this variety, Sweet Corn, can be eaten as a vegetable.
As a vegetable it would have to be one of the most delicious veggies grown fresh. Store bought, so called fresh, sweet corn is always found lacking due to one important fact. After harvesting corn cobs, the sugars in the corn rapidly convert to starch, unless you eat it raw quickly, cook it or store it just above 0°C (32°F) until blanched and frozen. Store bought sweet corn tastes bland and starchy because these conditions are not met.
So knowing that fact, one would naturally want to grow ones own sweet corn to get maximum flavour, wouldn’t one?
Let me tell you that growing corn is easy. It is grown from seed, which you can either sow early to get a head start in your green house by planting in it tubes, like I did this season, or plant directly in to soil which has had lots of home made compost dug through it.
|Planting Sweet Corn from seedlings|
I managed to get my corn in the ground in late October. Normally the soil would not be warm enough for the seed to germinate until late spring in our climate, So I managed to get one months head start.
Sweet Corn needs regular watering, after all, the corn kernels are mostly water. I tend to irrigate every few days after testing the soil with my finger. If it comes out moist, I check again the next day and water if necessary. A heavy mulch, 10 cm (4 inches) deep, of either straw or sugar mulch helps trap in the moisture during our long dry summer.
I don’t fertilize my sweet corn, as I add so much organic matter into the soil before planting. Additionally, I also planted about eight lazy housewife runner beans throughout the beg after I planted the seedlings. These plants provided additional nitrogen for the corn, which helped keep them healthy. Your corn stalks will grow to about 900mm (3 feet), but some varieties grow taller, with more than one ear per stalk.
|Sweet Corn fully grown|
Most varieties these days are F1 hybrids which you cannot regrow from saved seed, however you can buy heirloom cultivars from places like Diggers or Eden seeds which you can save seed from. This year I grew hybrids Honey Sweet, and Early Sweet, however I cannot tell the difference between the two. They just taste delicious.
You can tell when the ears are ready to eat by doing a couple of little tests. The silk on the ear should be dark brown, and if you open the husk and press one of the kernels with your thumb nail you should get a milky liquid.
|Sweet Corn ears ready for harvest|
To harvest the corn, grab the ear firmly, then pull it downward and give it a twist. It comes off quite easily, leaving the stalk intact, which is essential if there are more than two ears per plant.
|Corn harvested by Ben!|
Then, if you are going to eat them raw I would recommend that you eat them as quickly as possible for full flavour.
|Sweet Corn in husk|
Once the corn cobs are cleaned, you can throw the husk straight into the compost bin or worm farm. They decompose rapidly, and worms love them.
|De-husked, ready for the pot.|
If you are going to cook them, then quickly pop them in a pot of salted water and bring to the boil. Bring down the the simmer for 10 minutes. Then drain and serve with a little butter smeared over the ear. Eat whilst hot, and it is delicious.
You can also freeze sweet corn by blanching it for 5 minutes to stop the sugar to starch conversion, then cut in half and freeze. It stores for about six months if then vacuum packed and frozen.
So, with the favour differential between store bough sweet corn and home grown fresh being a factor of a bajillion, it pays to grow your own if you have space. You will never regret this decision and wonder why you didn’t do it sooner.
I love fresh sweet corn. How about you?