Sweet Corn

We’ll reserve a spot for sweet corn in next year’s garden.

Sweet corn is one the essential tastes of summer. We grow Silver Queen, a classic white corn. I read recently that most growers have switched to sweeter, faster-maturing  varieties, although they call it (and market it as) Silver Queen. I’m surprised every year at how many varieties of sweet corn are available in the seed catalogs. No doubt there are some great ones out there. But if it ain’t broke, I don’t fix it. So I’m sticking with Silver Queen for now.

For the past few years we’ve only grown sweet corn for ourselves. We don’t bother trying to grow it for market any more. There are a few reasons for that.

In the first place, sweet corn is a hot seller at the market so larger farms often grow it and bring it to the market by the truckload. They push the envelope on the planting date and choose the faster-maturing varieties in order to try to be first at the market with it (it commands the highest price then). We don’t want to bother trying to compete in that game.

Secondly, we grow ours organically. So there will almost certainly be an earworm in every ear. While many folks understand that reality (especially people who grew up on farms growing sweet corn), some don’t. It’s not worth it try to explain to the masses why they shouldn’t eat corn that doesn’t have a worm in the end of the ear.

Finally and most importantly there is the raccoon factor. The classic answer to the question ,”When should I pick my sweet corn?” is “Before the coons do.” Two out of the last 3 years we’ve lost our entire crop to coons. Last year we were lucky that they waited until the corn was mature to start eating it, so we were able to harvest most of it. But I don’t want to put in a lot of it, just to feed the raccoons. And that is always a significant risk.

So we only grow sweet corn for ourselves. But we love it, so we still grow a lot.

I aim to plant it as soon after April 20 as the soil permits. I have an Earthway planter but lately I’ve preferred making a furrow and dropping the seed by hand. I have an unconquerable fear that the planter isn’t working right. Our son found my preference for hand-planting silly so one year, at his insistence, we did a side by side test. The row planted with the planter and the row planted by hand came up identically. Nevertheless, I continue to hand drop the seeds, rake the soil over them and tamp it down. I plant beans the same way. Just hard-headed I reckon.

When the corn is ripe it will spit in your eye. If it’s starting to feel firm and full in your hand, peel back the shuck and poke a thumbnail into one of the kernels. If it spits at you, it’s ready.

We prefer to keep our sweet corn on the cob. So when we’re going to pick corn, we set aside “corn day.” I’ll pick and shuck the corn as Cherie preps, blanches and freezes it. For the best possible taste it’s important to freeze the corn immediately after picking it. We enjoy sweet corn all year and it’s a good in February as it is in August.

An interesting bit of corn trivia–what we call “corn” here in the U.S. is (more accurately) called “maize” elsewhere in the world. In the U.K. “corn” means grain generically and would include maize, wheat, etc. Early American settlers called maize “Indian corn” (meaning “Indian grain”) and eventually just shortened that to “corn,” and that name for it stuck in the colonies, while it continued to be “maize” elsewhere.

Just four more months and it will be time to plant!


20 comments on “Sweet Corn

  1. BeeHappee says:

    I like the spitting in your eye test, reminded me of spit test to see if alpacas had mated. 🙂
    Do you guys plant other varieties besides sweet, e.g. popcorn?
    You got me in trouble with that corn of yours, after you posted about racoons and corn earlier this year, I am weeding in the fields, ask my farmer: how is the corn, did racoons get into it yet? She says: no, it is just fine, and it almost ready. Well, that SAME night, racoons came and took it all, none left for the CSA members! So they said either I jinxed them, or I set it up so that I can come at night and load my trunk with corn. 🙂


    • Bill says:

      Sorry to hear your CSA was wiped out like that. I know that feeling!

      For now we only grow sweet corn. I’ve thought about adding some corn to make flour or chicken feed out of, but have never tried it.


  2. Interesting facts about corn here Bill! My Dad grew up in Germany. He called corn pig food and didn’t any until he was in his 70’s! ❤
    Diana xo

    Liked by 1 person

  3. avwalters says:

    Next year, a little corn. Just enough for us (and a little extra for raccoon insurance.)


  4. nebraskadave says:

    Bill, After four years of Terra Nova Gardens, I have only netted at few ears of sweet corn and those weren’t really mature yet. This year I have a real shot at getting a harvest. It almost seems like those raccoons have a memory about my garden. Every year since I started growing corn there, they raid the patch earlier than the last year. This year they took out the entire patch when the kernels were barely formed. I didn’t really have a chance to get anything. We will see how those little buggers like electric fences this year. I want to get three raised beds done before planting time next Spring. I have one completed and another close to completion. Each one has a four foot wide planting area and is twenty eight feet long. That should give me about nine dozen per bed. Every year I have good intentions to keep records on my gardens but after a month or two it kind falls by the wayside. It seems to happen about the time of predator destruction. Maybe if I can keep that from happening this year, I’ll be inspired to keep better records. I have the faith that next year will be the best garden year ever but isn’t that what every gardener thinks? The warm weather is giving me a chance to work on garden structure a little later into the Fall.

    Yeah, I’m with you on four months to planting. I’ll be starting some seeds in the basement seed starting area around the first of February so that’s when gardening starts for me. This next year I’m planning on using the station more through out the year. I have always used it in the Spring but about June it will be time to start thinking about a Fall garden. I wish I’d planted one this year. It would still be producing like yours.

    Have a great sweet corn planning day.


    • Bill says:

      I’ll be rooting for you Dave. I think the raccoons on our place can fly, because electric fences didn’t keep them out.

      We’ve had great production this fall, thanks to the balmy weather. Today I picked kale, broccoli, Asian greens and cauliflower. We’re eating fresh out of the garden every day. The forecast is for temps back into the 70s this week (mid 70’s on Christmas day!). We have crops going to seed, which is incredible. The problem now is day-length. Our run will likely be over soon.


  5. My Dad, who spent his childhood on a hill farm in Wales, wouldn’t eat corn. For him it was maize, and therefore for animals. And yes, for him corn was grain – wheat, barley, rye. Sweet corn is a big crop around here, Supersweet, Peaches’n’cream and a couple of others -mostly yellow – Peaches’n’cream would be the palest. Raccoons are certainly an issue, but also humans, since the fields are unfenced and bounded by roads. Once the fields have been cut down, the geese arrive by the thousands to glean. We now have resident flocks that never migrate. When the corn is gone, they start on any green pasture they can find.


    • Bill says:

      Interesting. Diana above says her German father considered corn (maize) to be pig food and he wouldn’t eat it either.

      Also interesting that your geese are staying around for the winter (and unfortunate for you I’m sure). Over the past few years we’ve had them overwintering here, instead of continuing south as they normally do. But this year we don’t have any. I suppose the weather has been so warm that they’re still in Canada.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. shoreacres says:

    Down here, maize doesn’t refer to corn, but to grain sorghum, or milo. It’s interesting how the names have changed or differed over the decades (centuries) as influences from other cultures have affected them.

    There’s nothing like fresh sweet corn. It’s one of my favorite summer foods.


    • Bill says:

      Fascinating. I’ve never heard milo called maize. I enjoy learning about regional variations like that. In a time when mass media threatens to wipe out our regional differences in speech, it’s good to know some things like that are holding on.


  7. Sue says:

    I lost plenty of corn to coons UNTIL–hubby discovered the one thing they like better—marshmallows. As soon as the corn is almost ready , out come the traps baited with corn. It’s their downfall guaranteed. Now if I could only figure out something (not chemicals!!!!) that work on those darn corn worms…………………………….


    • Sue says:

      Um, duh—baited with MARSHMALLOWS> I really should learn to read what I type early in the morning. Have a wonderful week,

      Liked by 1 person

    • Bill says:

      I read once that a few drops of mineral oil in the tassels as soon as they start to tassel out would keep them out. So I took a medicine dropper to the garden and did that. It didn’t work. Later I read about a variety that supposedly had such tight ears that the worms didn’t get in them. That was wrong. So now I’ve just come to accept the fact that they’re going to be there. No big deal. I just chop off the ends of the ears, and the chickens are delighted.

      As for trapping coons, I’ve had no luck (although I did catch a skunk last year). I hadn’t heard of using marshmallows. I used the “honey buns” they sell in convenience stores, as I head they worked. But no luck. Maybe this year I’ll remember to try marshmallows. 🙂


  8. Laurie Graves says:

    My mouth was watering as I read this post! Only four more months until you plant. It hardly seems possible. In Maine, winter hasn’t even tapped us on the shoulder.


    • Bill says:

      I’m beginning to wonder if we’re going to have winter this year. This week’s forecast is for more record high temps. Erich in Tennessee planted potatoes this week. Maybe I should go ahead and plant corn. 🙂

      But no, I’ll be patient….


  9. Nancy says:

    Marshmallows work great for catching coons.


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