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Discover Sweetcorn

Here’s the chance for you to discover some of the basic facts about Sweetcorn as well as some essential growing tips. Use these to decide whether you want to grow the vegetable, whether you are able to and what you need to do or look out for in order to grow a bountiful crop!

Sweetcorn Fact Sheet
Other names: Zea Mays
Appearance/taste: Slightly crunchy, sweet flavour because the milky kernals have a high sugar content
Popular varieties: Lark AGM, Luscious AGM, Sweetcorn Swift, Earlybird AGM & Golden Giant AGM
Interesting fact: Corn was first grown by Native Americans more than 7,000 years ago in Central America
Nutritional value: A good source of vitamin C and A, potassium, thiamine and fibre, and very high in antioxidants
When to grow: Sow seed mid-late May when the soil will have warmed above 10 degrees, or in a rootrainer in a greenhouse when temperatures exceed 18 degrees from mid april onwards at a depth of 2.5cm
Likes: A warm sheltered, sunny position, protected from strong wind, on any fertile garden soil. Likes up to two bucketfuls of organic matter, such as rotted manure and rake in Blood, Fish & Bone fertiliser. Sweetcorn are wind pollinated so they should be grown in blocks rather than rows, 45cm (18in) apart.
Watch out for: Sweetocrn does not like dry or heavy soil when planting
Harvest time: At the end of the summer/early Autumn test for ripeness when the tassels have turned chocolate brown - squeeze a cornel between thumbnail and fingernail; if a watery liquid squirts out, it is unripe; if it is creamy, the cob is ready; if paste-like it has gone over. Twist ripe cobs from the stem
Cooking tips: Sweetcorn rapidly looses flavour so have a pan of boiling water ready before you harvest, ready to plunge the cobs in. Boil, BBQ, grill or microwave
Essential Growing Tips for Sweetcorn
> Improving Soil - Mulch with organic matter (compost or leaf mould) to conserve moisture and suppress weeds. Mound soil over the roots, which appear at the base of the stems. Take care of these roots and hoe weed carefully as they are shallow rooted. We use Strulch garden mulch at the Harrod Kitchen Garden which is great for holding moisture in and keeping those roots warm.
> Guide to Sowing and Planting - Sweetcorn depend on their strong roots so we plant our seeds in Rootrainers to allow more room for the roots to grow and to give them the best start. Sow 1 or 2 seeds per pot, 1cm (0.5”) deep and thin to leave the strongest seedling. Water well and leave somewhere warm to germinate. When they have reached 15cm (6”) high they can be hardened off ready for planting out. Plant out indoor-raised plants at the end of May or early June depending on the weather.
> Guide to Growing - A good tip is grow courgettes in amongst your Sweetcorn as this encourages pollination of both vegetables and makes more use of the space. Sweetcorn grow adventitious roots to help support the weight of the tall plant however if your plants start to sway or look like they will become uprooted apply some soil or well rotted compost at the base of the plant (mulching). You may have to stake plants individually if they are tall or the location is exposed.
Water well in dry weather; this is vital when the plants are flowering. Tap the tops of the plants when the male flowers (tassels) open to help pollination; poor pollination results in sparsely filled cobs. Liquid feed when the cobs begin to swell. Remember to keep weeds under control as your plants will need all the nourishment from the soil they can get.
> Problems to Look Out For -
Mice- These pesky rodents will eat the newly planted seeds. If this becomes a problem place traps around the area where your seeds are sown.
Birds - Pigeons can damage ripening crops - Either net the entire crop or place plastic bags over individual cobs.
Slugs and Snails - These feed on the young seedlings and you''ll see the tell tale slime trail on the soil around your crop, as well as on the leaves. There are many ways to control slugs and snails, including beer traps (Slug Inns), natural pellets, sawdust or eggshell barriers and copper rings and tape.
> Storage - Sweetcorn doesn’t store well as mentioned before the sugars turn to starch as soon as they are picked. It can be kept in the fridge for a day or so but is best eaten as soon after harvesting as possible.
> Cooking Tips - Freshly boiled with butter and milled pepper – can’t beat it. Cooked on the BBQ - Use the freshest sweet corn you can get your hands on and don''t remove any of the outer leaves. Put the sweet corn in a bucket of water for 30 minutes. Put the Sweetcorn on the barbecue and cook for 25 minutes. Turn it a couple of times. Don’t worry about the outer leaves turning black, the sweetcorn will not be affected. Peel off the outer leaves and you will discover the most tasty sweetcorn you have ever tasted. Nigel Slater’s Sweetcorn Fritters are so light and delicious and worth a try.Tuna & Sweetcorn Fishcakes also make an easy supper dish.

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