Getting into a Cob - Sweet Corn Growing and Eating
By Penny Ossowski
The best time to grow Sweet Corn is during the summer months when it is delicious to eat with our summer meals. Plant some now.
Sweet Corn will grow in full sun in most soils, with plenty of compost and mulch, preferred soil pH 5.5 - 7.0.
Lightly dig the soil and create trenches about 5-1 0cm deep. Plant seeds directly into the soil in the trenches. Everyone you speak to has a different way of planting their seeds.
Some of the ways are:
- seeds singularly 20cm apart in rows about 30cm apart
- plant seed in pairs 20cm apart in rows about 30cm apart
- plant corn in a circle of 6 seeds with a garden stake in the centre to tie them to for support
- grow in two long rows, stake them and tie them with wire
However you plant the seed, remember the corn is pollinated by the flowers (male) from the top of the plant. Each silk (female) of the corn cob has to be pollinated by the pollen falling from the flower to make its corn kernel grow. The more pollination, the bigger better cobs you will grow, therefore the corn plants need to be fairly close together. Basically each silk is connected to one corn kernel, if the silk isn't pollinated that kernel wont develop. Pollination can be by wind or shaking by hand.
Corn needs plenty of water during flowering and when the cobs are growing. Fertilising with a seaweed fertiliser helps during the growing period and the soil will need to be kept moist. As the plants grow to full height (this varies with the type of seed planted) very few pests will attack them, other than grasshoppers. When the cobs start to form we have to watch out for the corn ear worm, which eats the cob from the top down. The best way to protect against this is to spray with Dipel or use derris dust.
- The hardest thing with sweet corn is how to tell when it is ready to pick. Some ways that have been suggested are
- When the tassel turns dark brown/black
- Feeling firmly along the cob to feel the size of the corn kernels
- Pull back part of the sheath and pierce a couple of grains using your fingernail, if a water liquid squirts out the cob is unripe, if the liquid is creamy then it is ready to pick
Sweet corn tastes best when it is freshly picked just before cooking. It can be boiled in a saucepan of water for about 5-10 minutes after stripping the leaves and tassels from the cob then served bare or with plenty of butter dripping from your chin as you devour it.
If you have an over abundance of Sweet Corn it can be blanched, then frozen either on the cob or strip the kernels and freeze separately. Corn relish can bottled for year round use.
American Indians said "walk slowly to pick, run back to cook it".