Sunday, December 19, 2010

A Maizing

A small bunch of corn (maize) plants may not appear particularly interesting or exciting to anyone who's driven through the vast oceans of the stuff in the US Midwest. It's not exactly uncommon either, being the world's most produced crop by weight. But a home-grown crop of the freshest, organic sweet corn is one of my favourite things about Summer. It's fast and relatively easy to grow, productive and makes any garden look satisfyingly farm-like.

How the corn looked about 8 weeks ago...

..and how it looks today.
Before too long the corn plants, actually a kind of grass, are rocketing skywards and deploying their flowers.

This year I'm growing a hybrid variety called "Honey & Cream" with variegated yellow and white kernels. Last year's crop of open pollinated "Golden Bantam" wasn't very successful, mostly because I left them too long before harvesting, so they were pretty starchy and dry. I might try them again next year. The hybrid varieties tend to be sweeter and keep longer so are a little less crucial with regards to timing. Nonetheless I've been gently opening one up to have a peek from time and checking if it's ready.

The corn should be ready for harvest when the silk at the end dries out and turns brown.
Today it looked about right so I picked it to try out. The husk was peeled back to reveal:

Glossy yellow and white kernels
Very pretty but the kernels towards the tip seemed a bit underdeveloped. I cooked it up anyway and we had a taste; not bad but probably needed a few more days. So, the more mature ears should be about ready for Christmas. I've also underplanted the corn with "Purple King" climbing beans, which will grow up the stalks and help replenish soil nitrogen. And give us more tasty beans of course.

Corn Factoids*
- 2009 world production was over 817 million tons.
- Only 2.5% of US production is for human consumption. Most of for animal feed. 
- Almost every kind of processed food has some sort of corn-derived ingredient in it.
- GM maize allows greater use of glyphosate pesticide.
- Australian maize commands a premium as GM maize is not grown here so there is no risk of contamination.
- In the US there are maize mazes, corn theme parks and even conferences about maize mazes and corn theme parks.
- Home grown corn is yummy.

*from Wikipedia and other unreliable sources

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