NGA Articles: Make Room for Corn

Make Room for Corn (cont)

By: Jack Ruttle

Watching Corn Grow

Experienced growers have reliable rules of thumb for predicting the stages in the life of a corn plant. When you first see tassels down in the leaves, it'll be about two weeks before the plant reaches full height and begins to shed pollen. Pollen is released for about a week. Note when the silk on the ears has extended about half its full length -- harvest is about three weeks away at this point.

The normal sweet corns stay in prime condition on the stalk for three days, but they ripen unevenly, which extends the harvest. SE and sh2 corns hold prime eating quality a day or two longer, but the ears ripen all together. So for all three kinds of corn, figure that harvest will last about a week.

Learn to pick corn the way you like it by trial and error. The silk should be dry and brown -- usually drier than you really want to wait for. The tips should be full and swollen. But if pollination is incomplete, the tip of the cob may be bare, with full kernels starting several inches down the cob from the tip. If you are unsure, gently pull away the husk and silk and look. Unripe corn has little points on the tops of the kernels. Replace the husk leaves and wait three days to look again. The corn will continue to ripen, though sap beetles and birds may find the ones you open and ruin the tips.

At harvesttime, place a single layer of ears in a plastic bag and refrigerate the corn if more than an hour will pass before you plan to cook it.

NORMAL

Old-fashioned sweet corn, either open-pollinated or hybrid.

  • Should be cooked within in an hour of picking.
  • Even refrigerated, quality declines in less than a day.
  • For early plantings; seed can sprout in soil around 55&deg F.

SUGAR ENHANCED

  • Has SE gene. Developed in the 70s.
  • Intermediate sugar levels. Creamy, tender texture.
  • Sugars change slowly. Refrigerated, holds sweetness for four days.
  • Cross-pollination affects sweetness only slightly. No need to isolate.
  • Poor germination in cold soils.

SUPERSWEET

  • Has the sh2 gene, discovered in 1950. First varieties came in the 60s.
  • Twice the sugar of normal sweet corns. Crisp texture.
  • Sugars change slowly. Refrigerated, holds excellent quality for four days, good quality eight days.
  • Germinates poorly in cool soil. Plant when soil is 60&deg F or more.
  • Cross-pollination ruins its quality and other sweet corns.
  • Separate by 30 feet or two-week pollination time.

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