Sweet corn is a fast-growing annual that is planted in spring and grows through the summer. The botanical name of sweet corn is Zea mays convar. saccharata var. rugosa. Native to the Americas, sweet corn has been cultivated for thousands of years; it’s famous as one of the Three Sisters—corn, beans, and squash—grown by Native Americans. Sweet corn, also called sugar corn and pole corn, is a variety of maize grown for human consumption with a high sugar content.
The fruit of the sweet corn plant is the corn kernel, a type of fruit called a caryopsis. The ear is a collection of kernels on the cob. Because corn is a monocot, there is always an even number of rows of kernels. The ear is covered by tightly wrapped leaves called the husk. Sweet corn can be white, yellow, red, or even bicolor. Many modern sweet corn varieties have been bred to mature early in the season, but later-maturing types tend to be sweeter.
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6 - 8 feet
1 - 2 feet
6.0 - 7.0
Growth Nutrition of Sweet Corn
Sweet corn requires plenty of nitrogen and phosphorus throughout the growing season. Many soils already contain enough potassium, magnesium and other nutrients for corn to grow healthily.
Types and Varieties of Sweet Corn
Below are the five categories of sweet corn:
Standard (su) is the oldest form and most familiar. These are some of the hardiest varieties. Almost immediately after picking, the sugar in the kernels begins to change to starch, so this type should be eaten as soon as possible after plucking from the plant.
Sugary Extender (se) varieties have more sugar per kernel than the standard types, making them perfect for market growers or when the corn isn’t eaten the same day it is picked. These varieties will retain their sweetness for 2 to 4 days after harvesting. The kernels are more tender than on standard sweet corn, requiring gentle handling and harvesting by hand.
Supersweet (sh2) is also known as shrunken types. This corn has 4 to 10 times as much sugar per kernel as the sugary extender. With proper handling and refrigeration this sweet corn will retain its sweet flavor for up to 10 days after harvesting. However, these varieties require higher germination temps than the standard or sugary extender varieties. Precise planting depth is necessary for maximum germination. Plus, they must be isolated from all other corn varieties to prevent cross pollination, ruining both crops.
Synergistic (sy) varieties combine the genetic traits of standard, sugary extender and supersweet all on one ear of corn. Each kernel portrays the trait of a different type. This type yields a sweeter ear than standard, yet hardier than sugary extender varieties. Isolation from other corn varieties it is not necessary. It can tolerate some mechanical harvesting.
Augmented Supersweet also has combined traits. However, every kernel will have the traits of a supersweet corn variety. Plus, it will have some characteristics from both the standard and sugary extender varieties. It requires manual harvesting and isolation from other types.
Varieties of sweet corn
Ambrosia like the custard. And it’s not for nothing that this SE variety is named after the delicious sweet dessert. This plump yellow and white variety is super sweet, and perfect for home growing. Plant ‘Ambrosia’ in full sunlight to get the most out of this yummy cultivar. This variety takes 75 days to reach maturity. It produces 8-inch-long ears on 6 ½-foot-tall plants.
This heirloom SH2 variety has 5-foot stalks that produce 7-inch, very dark blue ears that are highly decorative. It was traditionally believed that, when eaten before a long journey, the consumer was guaranteed a safe return. So, if you are planning any long trips, perhaps this is a good variety to try.
Mature in 100-110 days, ‘Blue Hopi’ provides large ears reaching between 8-9 inches in length, with a sweet flavor. It can either be eaten when harvested or kept to dry and be used to make flour for tortillas.
Burpee boldly states that this is the variety which made yellow sweet corn popular. Apparently, when Burpee first introduced it in 1902, people only wanted white kernels, the color that signified a high-quality product at the time.
But since it was bred, ‘Golden Bantam’ quickly gained popularity thanks to the ease with which it sprouts in cool soil early in the season. This is an SU type. The stalks only reach about 5 feet in height and often bear two 5 ½ to 6 ½-inch-long ears apiece, but for old-fashioned flavor, it’s unbeatable.
Honey Select Hybrid
An AAS Winner for 2001, this “triplesweet” variety produces ears that are a hybrid of 75% SE and 25% SH2, providing a rich and sweet flavor that is hard to rival. Producing ears between 8 and 9 inches long, ‘Honey Select’ Hybrid is ready to harvest in 80 days and grows on stalks that will reach up to six feet in height.
This popular variety is as beautiful as it is bountiful, producing large yields with ears 8 1/2 to 9 inches long, with 18 to 20 rows of bright yellow kernels. This type is deliciously sweet, and ready for the picking in 90 days. It’s perfect for processing and freezing, although can also be eaten fresh. This SU variety grows six-foot-tall stalks, and it thrives in full sun conditions with slightly acidic soils.
‘Nirvana’ Hybrid offers the best of all the worlds, being bi-color yellow and white, sweet, vigorous, easy to grow, and beautiful, all wrapped up in one neat little husk. This variety is also particularly high yielding, perfect for a large family or for sharing with your neighbors.
Although technically an SH2 variety, ‘Nirvana’ Hybrid kernels are plumper than your usual SH2, and so your harvest will be more like an extra-sweet SE variety. It takes 72 days to reach full maturity and does best in full sun conditions.
Peaches and Cream
This SE variety produces a high yield of both white or yellow kernels. Reaching maturity in 80-83 days, ‘Peaches and Cream’ stays fresh for longer than other types. Designed with markets and roadside stands in mind, it is also well suited to home gardens.
This hybrid, described as a “visual stunner and culinary wonder,” makes a beautiful addition to any garden. With its deep purple stalks and husks contrasting against white and yellow ears, this crop can be enjoyed both in the garden and on the plate, or as a festive holiday decoration. Best roasted, baked, or boiled, this variety reaches maturity in 75 days and thrives in full sun conditions.
Ruby Queen Hybrid
A hybrid SE sweet corn, ‘Ruby Queen’ certainly lives up to its name. A deep shade of vibrant red, this type is as beautiful as it is delicious, with sweet, tender kernels. ‘Ruby Queen’ grows well in full sun in rich, fertile, well-drained soil. It can either be picked a bit earlier when it’s blush-red for maximum sweetness, or you can let it ripen to fully develop its rich, old-fashioned corn flavor. This variety is ready to harvest in 75 days and stalks grow to 7 feet tall.
With ears that reach 8 inches long, sporting 18 rows of juicy, very tender kernels, there’s more than enough to enjoy with this variety. It’s recommended to steam or microwave this corn to make the most of both its rich taste and color. As an added bonus, the red tassels and stalks also make fantastic autumn decorations.
Silver Queen Hybrid
Rivalling the ‘Ruby Queen’ throne, ‘Silver Queen’ is a popular late-season SU variety that is very much worth the wait. A brilliant bright white, this type is highly productive and flavorsome, and has been a firm favorite for many years. Although sometimes a little bit more delicate than some of the others to grow, this is definitely one to consider for your garden. Producing large ears between 8 and 9 inches long with 14-16 rows of white kernels, this variety grows stalks up to 8 feet tall, and is ready to harvest in 92 days.
This heirloom, open-pollinated variety. Named after its breeder, Nathaniel Stowell worked for decades to develop the variety before selling just 2 ears to a “friend” for $4 for “private use.” This “friend” then made his fortune with the seed, selling it for $20,000 and introducing it to the market. And it’s certainly not hard to see why this cultivar took off! A firm favorite since its development in the 1800s, this type shows no sign of dropping out of fashion any time soon.
An SU variety, ‘Stowells Evergreen’ is hardy and productive, whilst at the same time producing very tender and sugary white kernels. The ears also stay fresh in the field for a long time – hence the “Evergreen” part of this cultivar’s name. This type matures slowly, requiring 95-100 days to harvest. Ears are about 7-8 inches long, and the stalks grow to about 7 1/2 feet high. This variety does best in full sunlight.
‘Temptress’ is your early choice for the QuadSweets (Syngergistic) as it has strong emergence and a sturdy plant. The consistency of ‘Temptress’ is impressive for its early maturity.It has strong tip fill, good husk protection, and even rowing on good size ears while still boosting the superb eating quality of the QuadSweets. ‘Temptress’ works well with the later maturing ‘Nectar,’ and both are a great choice for organic growers.
Planting Sweet Corn
When to Plant
Plant sweet corn in the spring after all danger of frost has passed. The soil temperature should be at least 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Starting seeds indoors is not recommended, as the seedlings don’t take well to transplanting.
Selecting a Planting Site
The ideal planting site should have rich, well-draining soil and lots of sun. Container growth is also an option for the smaller varieties. Because corn grows fairly tall, make sure not to plant it near other shorter crops that it might shade out.
Spacing, Depth, and Support
Plant the seeds about an inch deep with a spacing of 8 to 12 inches apart. Rows should be 30 to 36 inches apart. Plant in blocks of at least 4 rows rather than a single row to allow proper pollination. Corn typically can grow without a support structure, as long as you plant it in a spot that’s fairly sheltered from strong winds.
How to Grow Sweet Corn in Pots
If you don’t have the right soil conditions or the garden space for growing corn, try container growth. Pick a short variety that tops out at around 5 to 6 feet tall, as the standard varieties typically don't do well in containers. And just like when growing corn in the ground, plant your containers in a block for pollination. You’ll need at least three rows with three or more plants per row. Using a 5-gallon bucket with drainage holes for each plant should work fine. Water when the top inch of soil dries out, making sure not to allow the containers to become waterlogged.
Sweet Corn Plant Care
To grow well and have the ears fill out, corn needs a spot that gets full sun. That means at least six hours of direct sunlight on most days.
The soil should be loose and loamy with a slightly acidic to neutral soil pH. Heavy soils can inhibit corn's fibrous root system. The shallow roots that form on the soil surface are predominantly there to anchor the tall plants. It's always a good idea to get a soil test before planting. Take a sample to your local university extension office for analysis. Improve soil as needed with well-rotted manure or compost in the spring or fall.
Water regularly, especially if you notice the leaves curling and when the cobs begin to swell. Around an inch of water per week should suffice. And it is ideal to water deeply once a week, rather than provide a little water daily. Also, keep the area free of weeds that will compete for food and water.
Temperature and Humidity
Sweet corn prefers temperatures between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. It won’t germinate in cold soil. In cold climates, you can cover the soil with black plastic to help it warm quickly in the spring prior to planting. You can also find varieties available for shorter seasons. Humidity typically isn’t an issue as long as adequate soil moisture is maintained.
Corn is a heavy feeder, requiring rich soil. Nitrogen is especially important for robust growth. An inch or two of compost, rotted manure, or fish emulsion worked into the soil in the fall prior to planting is good to feed your corn. Apply a nitrogen fertilizer once the plants are about 8 inches tall and again when they start producing tassels, following label instructions.
Because corn is pollinated by the wind, it does best when planted in blocks rather than rows. Pollen from the male tassels needs to make contact with the female silks, and close planting means more contact. Wind pollination also results in easy cross-pollination. So keep different types of corn separated by at least 25 feet, or plant varieties that mature at different times.
Harvesting Sweet Corn
Each stalk of sweet corn should produce at least one ear of corn. Pick corn when you see fat, dark green ears with brown tassels. Squeeze to test for firmness and a rounded, not pointed, tip. Finally, pierce a kernel with a fingernail. If it spurts milky liquid, it is ready.
Pull the ears downward, and twist to take the cob off the stalk. Plan to eat or preserve sweet corn immediately after picking, as the sweetness fades soon after harvesting. You can freeze sweet corn by removing the kernels from the ears and storing them in an airtight container. For best results, blanch the corn and then cool it in ice water prior to freezing. It should keep in the freezer for around six months.
Pruning and Propagating Sweet Corn
Pruning is not necessary for sweet corn plants.
Propagating Sweet Corn
Sweet corn can be propagated by saving seeds to plant the following season. This is a great way to get more plants from a variety you particularly like, as long as no cross-pollination has occurred. You’ll harvest seeds to save at the end of the growing season. Here’s how:
Cover the ears of corn you plan to save for seed with a shoot bag or paper bag when the first tassel appears.
Leave each cob on the plant to dry for as long as possible. Remove them once the fall weather turns damp.
Pull back the husks, and hang the ears upside down in a cool, dry spot to dry completely.
When they’re dry, remove the seeds from each ear. Keep them in a paper bag in a cool, dry spot for planting the next season.
Sweet corn is an annual, so no overwintering is necessary. You can leave the stalks in place to dry out and then cut them down to use for fall decor.
Pests and Plant Diseases
Animals, including rodents, raccoons, and birds will be the biggest pest problem for sweet corn as the ears ripen. Plants also might become infested with corn borers, which can be kept in check with an organic pesticide and by destroying the stalks at the end of the season. Also, be on the lookout for a grayish-black fungus called smut. Remove and destroy affected plants as soon as possible—ideally before the spores spread.
Benefits of Sweet Corn
1. Benefits Of Sweet Corn For Skin
Below listed are the various sweet corn benefits for skin.
Delays Aging Process
If you want to remain young and maintain youthful looks, then you definitely have to consume sweet corn. It is a powerhouse of antioxidants useful in preventing the aging process.
Enhances Skin Texture
With the regular massage of corn oil, there is a considerable enhancement in your skin texture. A host of essential minerals and vitamins, regular consumption of sweet corn ensures you have a radiant skin and good vision.
Removes Facial Acne Scars
Owing to its high vitamin E content, a paste created with sweet corn can work wonders to remove facial acne scars.
2. Benefits Of Sweet Corn For Hair
Let’s look into some of the sweet corn benefits for your healthy hair.
Enhances Blood Circulation In The Scalp
The corn oil enhances blood circulation in the scalp, thereby promoting the follicles to produce healthy and strong tresses.
Strengthens Hair Strands
The vitamin C, lycopene content, and various other antioxidants present in sweet corn helps in strengthening the hair strands. It works effectively in dealing with hair loss.
3. Sweet Corn: Health Benefits
Check out here some of the best health benefits of sweet corn.
Corn contains a lot of vitamin B12, iron, and folic acid. The deficiency of these nutrients can cause anemia. So, eating sweet corn can prevent anemia.
Sweet corn contains soluble fiber as well, which turns into a gel-like substance in the blood stream. This gel, in turn, absorbs bad cholesterol (LDL cholesterol). Sweet corn also contains carotenoids and bioflavonoids. These control cholesterol levels in the blood.
Sweet corn kernels contain beta carotene, which produces vitamin A that promotes better vision. The carotenoids also reduce macular degeneration, which impairs vision at the center of the line of sight.
Sweet corn is a starchy grain, which works as a storehouse of energy. It is higher in energy than most other veggies! So, athletes who want to eat carbohydrates to boost their performance can eat a cup of corn.
The vitamin B present in sweet corn regulates protein, lipid, and carbohydrate metabolism, and the phytochemicals present regulate the release of insulin. Sweet corn has a glycemic index of 58, making it a super food for those who are diabetic. Together, these help in controlling diabetes. Similarly, phenolic phytochemicals present in sweet corn also control hypertension.
Consuming food rich in omega 3 fatty acids reduces the risk of contracting heart ailments. Sweet corn contains oil, which has a very good fatty acid combination. As a result, it enables omega-3 fatty acids to remove harmful fatty acids (like LDL) and reduces the risk of heart attack. It also prevents atherosclerosis (deposition of cholesterol on the walls of arteries).
Sweet corn contains a lot of dietary fiber. The insoluble fibers help in digestion and also prevent constipation. Those with irritable bowel syndrome and diarrhea will also find relief after eating sweet corn.
Sweet corn contains a high concentration of folic acid, which is actually prescribed to women during pregnancy. So, sweet corn is a healthy food every pregnant woman should adopt. However, if you have swollen feet, consult your doctor before this diet change.
Sweet corn leaves are used to make cornmeal pancakes, dried corn pudding, dried corn pie, etc. It can also serve as a heating fuel.
Corn leaf can be dried and ground into flour to make porridge, breads and drinks.
Sweet corn is also very versatile; it’s been a staple food for centuries and it’s a nice addition in soups, salads or as a pizza toping.
Sweet corn can also be eaten as baby corn.
Sweet corn stores poorly and must be eaten fresh, canned, or frozen.