Gardening Articles: Health :: Cooking

Parching Corn (page 3 of 5)

by Carol Deppe

Row Planting

Before planting, putin a band of extra compost or fertilizer along the row: 1/2 gallon per 100 feet of row. Sow seeds 1 to 2 inches deep and 4 inches apart. Allow 3 feet between rows. Later, thin plants to 1 to 2 feet apart.

Hill Planting

Space the tops of the hills about 6 feet apart in all directions. Work a shovelful of compost or a cup of organic fertilizer into each hill. On each hill, plant about six seeds 1 to 2 inches deep in a 12-inch-diameter ring, then thin to two or three plants when they come up. To interplant pole beans, plant one or two seeds in each corn hill after the corn is 4 inches high. Plant squash in their own hills between the corn or around the edges of the corn patch.

Even the smaller varieties of parching corn benefit from wide spacing, which allows their side shoots (tillers) to grow to nearly the same size as the stalk and yield good ears. Crowded plants set only one or two ears on the main stalk only.

Weed Control

Hinder weed growth by hoeing soil up around the cornstalk (hilling up). Hoeing disturbs, buries, and kills emerging weeds in the soil. The corn appreciates it: Plants will send new roots into the hilled-up soil. Hilling up also prevents the stalks from falling over, or lodging.

How and When to Harvest

To dry well in the field, parching corns need dry weather at summer's end. Because ears of parching corn retain more moisture and resist drying more than other types of corn do, they are more prone to rotting in high humidity. This is why East Coast Native Americans (and the early colonists) grew flint corns. Now, with heated houses and commercial drying facilities, gardeners in most regions of the country can grow parching corns.

If you live where summers are dry, you can mature ears the traditional way, right in the field. Leave ears on the stalks until kernels are fully dry. Where summer rainfall and humidity are common, the ears will likely mold or rot before they dry in the field In this case, let ears develop until they begin to dry. Harvest as soon as kernels are somewhat beyond the milk stage (when pressing on a kernel, it releases creamy white liquid) and slightly hardened. Shuck ears immediately and spread them out in a warm, airy, indoor place to finish drying.


Fully dry ears of most kinds of parching corn are very easy to thresh by hand; wear soft, thin, leather gloves. Break each ear in half, twist the kernels off in bunches, and then rub the loose corn between your gloved hands to separate the kernels from the bits of debris clinging to the base of most of the seeds. To separate the debris from the cleaned kernels, pour the kernels from one container to another outdoors when it is windy, or in front of a fan. Store kernels in glass jars or other airtight insect-proof containers.

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