Growing Sweetcorn and Popcorn

Every year we are invited to choose different varieties of vegetable seeds and this year there are three very noteworthy additions to the sweetcorn range in Thompson and Morgan’s seed catalogue.

The first new variety is Red Strawberry.Swetcorn Red Strawberry

This has been bred especially to produce Popcorn with the minimum of fuss. The plants produces 3-4 ears per plant which are only 2 inches (5 cm) long. They have tiny red, kernels. You simply pop the whole cob in the microwave and watch it explode. You then have ready-to-eat, fluffy white popped corn.

The other two new varieties are designed to be used  as ‘baby corn’  in stir-fries, salads and as a vegetable. You harvest them before pollination, just as the silk tassels are beginning to show. These are called Snobaby and Minor. They are both F1 Hybrids.

Sweet Corn you have grown yourself tastes so much better than any you have bought that it is worth the extra effort you put in to grow it. This is because sweet corn starts to lose its sweetness as soon as you pick it. The sugar in the kernels starts to turn to starch. In fact the very best way to eat sweet corn is to boil the water to cook it , next to your vegetable patch, pick to cobs and drop them into the boiling water. Cook for 7 minutes, then eat! They are so sweet and juicy they need no butter.

Germinate sweet corn indoors at 21 -24C (70-75F). This means you can sow them in the  cold greenhouse in April. Sow 1 seed per 3in pot in compost and wait until they are the size of a pencil beforel you plant them out. Then plant them in a block – not rows – at least 3 plants by 3 plants square. Anything larger is great. But try to make them  in as near as a square as possible. This is because they are pollinated by wind. The flowers are at the top of the plants and the cobs half way down. If there is no breeze when the flowers are covered in pollen (it is large enough it see), then gently shake the plants so that it falls onto the emerging cobs – and their neighbours). This will aid germination. If it is at all windy, you do not need to do this, nature will do it for you.

You know the cobs are about ready to harvest  when the silk tassels go dark brown. All Sweet Corn freezes well so is a useful vegetable for keeping. Although you would think that a sweet vegetable like sweet corn would have loads of calories, in fact a typical cob has only 100 calories so can be used in salads in a diet  designed for weight loss. Cobs are gluten free and are a good source of fibre and Vitamin B.  All in  all, a very useful vegetable which is worth the efort to grow in your garden.

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