Sweetcorn - How to Cook and Grow

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I cannot imagine a late summer without a healthy crop of sweetcorn gently swaying in the wind. Like beans and potatoes I love to pick them at the very last moment and eat them as soon as possible to make the most of the sweet fresh kernels.

Most common in America and England there are many varieties from the babycorn to the very sweet corn on the cobs and those used for cereal maize of which America and England are large producers.

Corn on the Cob

How to Grow

I find sweetcorn very easy to grow; they are rarely troublesome other than their desire for lots of water and a bed of well-rotted compost. I avoid sowing sweetcorn too early; here in England we tend to enjoy warm September’s so I know I can prolong the growing season. Sweetcorn can be sown in intervals of two to three weeks for successive harvesting but I tend not to bother. When I have a glut, which I usually do then I freeze the kernels or make relishes or soups with the excess. Once I have sown the seeds into individual pots I leave them to get quite established, hardening them off in a cold frame whilst the bed has been prepared with plenty of compost, fishmeal or poultry manure. Once planted I protect the plants with a cloche made from empty toilet rolls or clear plastic bottles to protect them and encourage them to grow upright. Sow sweetcorn in blocks no more than two feet apart to allow the wind to pollinate the plants and keep them well watered. Other vegetables such as cucumbers and courgettes can be under planted but I prefer to give them their own space. Sweetcorn is ready for harvesting once the silks have turned brown and begin to droop. Pull back the outer green husk and pierce a kernel with your nail. If a clear liquid is emitted then the corn is unripe, a ripe cob will produce a milky liquid, which turns thick if left for too long.

How to Cook

Fresh corn is delicious when cooked whole in boiling unsalted water for 6-8 minutes and served with little else other than butter and cracked black pepper and sea salt. Sweetcorn is also invaluable in chowder and Chinese style chicken soups, as a vegetable fritter or a chilli hot relish.

Content and picture © Miles Collins