Gardening Articles: Health :: Cooking

Parching Corn (page 2 of 5)

by Carol Deppe

Commercial Potential

Parching corn would seem to have considerable potential for home and large-scale growers. This corn retains its freshness at room temperature for at least 3 months with no special packaging and no preservatives. Because of its long shelf life, market gardeners could sell it year-round. Possibilities abound on a larger scale, too. After parching, it could be sold like nuts or candy. Because it is so easy to parch in a microwave oven, unparched kernels could be sold in grocery stores like popcorn.

Raising a Crop

Parching corn can grow wherever sweet corn can. First, choose a variety that can mature in the growing season typical for your region. (The growing season is the time between the last frost in spring and the first frost in fall.) If you don't know what is typical for your area, check with a master gardener, cooperative extension agent, or garden center.

In hot-summer areas, short-season parching corns require only 80 to 90 days from sowing seed to full dryness. In cool-summer regions, the same varieties will need more time. Long-season varieties need 100 days or more.

Pollination

To ensure good pollination and ears packed with kernels, always plant corn in blocks of short rows, not in fewer, longer rows. For instance, 100 feet of corn is better pollinated if planted in 10 rows that are 10 feet long than in 5 rows that are 20 feet long.

If you plant several varieties of parching corn in your garden, put them in separate blocks at least 20 feet apart so that each variety will mostly self-pollinate. Or plant varieties that flower at different times; for example, a block of a short-season variety adjacent to a block of a long-season variety.

A little pollen from other kinds of corn won't have much effect on a block of parching corn. But the flavor and texture of a sweet or supersweet corn will be ruined if it's pollinated by the parching corn.

Before Planting

Grow parching corns in rows or hills, the latter being especially useful if your soil is poor, or if you want to interplant beans or squash.

Spread a 2-inch layer of compost, or about 10 pounds of a complete organic fertilizer (with about 5 percent nitrogen) per 500 square feet, over the planting area. If you live where soil is normally acidic, include dolomitic limestone; if your soil is alkaline, add sulfur. A soil test is the best way to know exactly how much of either to use.

Incorporate Amendments by Tilling or Digging

In my own garden, I use a complete organic fertilizer that is by volume 3 parts cottonseed meal, 1 part dolomitic limestone, 1 part rock phosphate, and 1 part kelp meal. I apply 1 gallon of this mix to every 100 square feet when turning or tilling the soil. I often add organic fertilizer to the rows or hills when planting. Even though plants grow best in fertile soils, parching corns have deep, vigorous root systems, so they're well suited to growing under less-than-ideal conditions. Sow seeds after danger of frost has passed and soil is warm.

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