Corn – Gardening Tips from the Culinary View
as recommended by Michael Vidrine
Did You Know…
Corn (Zea mays, AKA maize) is a grass that was developed from the teosinte plant starting about 9000 years ago in Southwestern Mexico. Cultivation spread widely throughout the Americas and later the Spanish brought corn to Europe and beyond. More corn by weight is produced worldwide than any other grain. Nutritionally, corn is a good source of fiber, folate, thiamin, vitamin C and carotenoids. Corn is one of the few crops that we consume both as a vegetable and as a grain.
Types of Corn
There are 5 major types of “field corn” that are grown to full maturity – Dent, Flint (AKA Indian Corn), Pod, Flour and Popcorn. Most are yellow or white except for the multicolored flint corn. This corn is primarily used for animal feed, fuel ethanol and sweeteners. Smaller amounts are turned into flour, distilled spirits, cereal and non-consumable textiles and chemicals.
Sweet corn is the type we most often eat as a vegetable like corn on the cob or creamed corn. These varieties have a higher sugar content and are harvested while immature and tender. Sweet corn types are also classified as to the genetics that give them their sweetness – standard, super sweet, sugar-enhanced or some combination of the three. Sweet corn can be yellow, white, or bicolor.
When to Plant
Corn is a warm season crop direct seeded after all danger of frost in the Spring. Field corn is left to stand until fully mature and the plants begin to wilt. Sweet corn, especially the super sweet varieties, are usually planted a couple of weeks later than field corn so the soil is a bit warmer. A second crop of corn can often be planted in late summer for a fall harvest. Corn is a heavy feeder and will produce best in a rich, well fertilized soil. As a grass, corn can withstand some dry conditions but will produce best with even watering.
Harvest and Storage
Field corn ears are taken off the plant when completely mature and dry. Ears can be stored on the cob or “shelled” – removing the kernels from the cob. Store field corn in a dark dry location protected from insects and other hungry critters. Sweet corn is best harvested right before consumption as the sugars begin to convert to starch quickly after picking. For storage, whole sweet corn can be frozen, or corn kernels can be frozen, canned or pickled.
Brazos Valley Gardener, Orchardist, Apiarist and Instructor