Popcorn, Pink pearl


Show Some Respect

The problem with popcorn is that it, like Rodney Dangerfield, “don’t get no respect.” Sure, it’s a fun food, nice to toss into your mouth while you watch a movie. But that’s been the case only since the 1930s.

Popcorn is a grain, a whole grain, as good a source of nourishment as wheat, rice, rye, or any other grain. It was among the foods brought by native Americans to the first Thanksgiving dinner.

For anyone who likes the idea of raising their own grain, popcorn is a good choice. It’s easy to grow, it’s easy to process, and it’s easy to save seed from one year to the next. I grow two varieties — Pink Pearl and Dutch Butter-flavored — and have saved seed from my plantings for over 25 years.

Pink Pearl popcorn

Pink Pearl popcorn

Popcorn is also fun to grow, especially with children around. Growing it yourself also lets you choose a variety you like. You might think popcorn is just popcorn; they all taste the same. Not so! Last year’s crop yield came up a little short (my fault, for not checking the drip irrigation) so, for the first time in many years, I just purchased some to tide us over until this season’s crop becomes ready to eat. The purchased popcorn burst into large, fluffy clouds, but to call the flavor bland would be an understatement. Nothing like the rich flavors of Pink Pearl and Dutch Butter-flavored. Read more


Popcorn Traditions

I was surprised at the different colors of my ears this fall — popcorn ears, that is. ‘Pink Pearl’ popcorn lived up to its name, yielding short ears with shiny, pink kernels. Peeling back each dry husk of ‘Pennsylvania Dutch Butter Flavored’ popcorn revealed rows of creamy white kernels. The surprise came from some ears from either bed whose kernels were multi-colored, each in a different way, with some kernels mahogany-red, some pale pink, some dark pink, and some lemon yellow.Popcorn mixes

I plan to bring some of these popped kernels to Thanksgiving dinner, just as Native American chief Massasoit’s brother, Quadequina, brought along a sack of popped popcorn to the first Thanksgiving feast almost four centuries ago.

Popcorn predates that first Thanksgiving in America by thousands of years. Kernels have been found in the remains of Central American settlements of almost 7000 years ago. The Quichas of Peru and the Aztecs of Mexico grew red, yellow, and white popcorns. Even after that first Thanksgiving dinner, popcorn was eaten by settlers in the Northeast as a breakfast staple with milk and maple sugar, or floated on soup (very good!). Beginning in the last century, movie  and television viewing caused a resurgence in popcorn consumption.

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Danger of Squashing

Thanksgiving is a most appropriate time to put together a truly American meal, one made up of native plants, many of which are easily grown, that might have shown up on the original Thanksgiving table about 400 years ago.

(The date of that first feast was 1623 but the date for celebrating Thanksgiving in all states— on the final Thursday in November — was not fixed until 1863, with a presidential proclamation. Lincoln hoped that a unified date throughout the country would help unify the nation during the divisive days of the Civil War. Not so. Confederate States refused to accept that date until the next decade, during Reconstruction. Another presidential proclamation, by F.D.R. changed the date to the 4th Thursday of November, in an attempt to boost the economy. Would a new date help now?)

On to garden history . . . Back in early November, I picked a 20 pound berry that was growing from my compost pile. Actually, I harvested about a dozen of these heavy berries. Don’t imagine them in terms of strawberries or blueberries. Imagine a winter squash, which botanically-speaking is a berry, a special kind of berry called a pepo. Squashes are native American fruits.

Twenty pounds is no lightweight for a squash. Nothing like the 2,023 pound (still a berry) record-holding pumpkin, of course, but big nonetheless. Especially so when you consider that mine weren’t grown to vie for any records, but for eating.

Argonaut is the variety name of my 20 pound berries. It seems to be a kind of butternut squash stretched out anywhere from 20 to 30 inches long and 8 inches across at its fattest point. It’s relatively easy to grow if you can figure out where to let the 20-foot-long vines trail. In May I had sown the seeds in 4-inch pots and then transplanted a few right atop my compost bin. I put another couple into compost-filled holes I had scooped out in a mountain of leaves (for future use, after rotting down into rich “leaf mold”) kindly deposited here by a local landscaper.Argonaut squash hanging in basement

Argonaut needs a long season before the fruits turn buff tan ripe. Longer than my plants got, this year, at least, because only some of them had only some ripe color. Still, they taste very good, and squashes will ripen, to some degree, after harvest.

The question is what to do with a dozen humongous squashes. Ideal storage is in a cool room: my basement, where temperatures no and in the next few weeks will be in the low 50s. Mice occasionally make their way into my basement. They could make many meals of the squashes. I mouse-proofed each one by tying it with a sturdy length of rope in a noose around its neck, then hanging it from the basement rafters.

More Than a Snack Food

Corn is another native American food, with popcorn predating that first Thanksgiving in America by thousands of years. Kernels have been found in the remains of Central American settlements almost 7000 years old. Four hundred years ago, the Pawtuxet Indian Chief, Massasoit, showed up at the first Thanksgiving feast with a deerskin sack filled with popcorn, a food hitherto unknown to the colonists.

Popcorn is the corn I’ll bring to our Thanksgiving table. Most people eat popcorn as a snack, but there’s no reason it couldn’t stand-in for potatoes, rice, bread, or any other carbohydrate-rich foods. Popcorn has the advantage of always being whole grain, and being very quick and easy to prepare.Popcorn hanging from kitchen rafters

Corn was the best grain crop to grow in the rude conditions of a settler’s clearing. Little land preparation was needed, and the ripe ears could be left dangling on the stalks until there was time for harvest. I could grow it under “ruder” conditions, but I plant it in compost-enriched soil with drip irrigation for consistent water. Two 12-foot long by 3-foot wide beds provide enough popcorn to carry us through the year to the next harvest season.

Since harvest, a few weeks ago, unshelled ears of Pink Pearl and Dutch Butter popcorn have been hanging from the kitchen rafters, decoratively and conveniently at hand.

Bogless Cranberries

Cranberries are among the few native American fruits sold commercially.  Although they do not provide a great deal of nourishment, they spice up present and past holiday dinners.

Cranberries can be grown in a home garden if the soil is very acidic (sulfur will make it so if it is not), rich in organic matter, and has consistent moisture. A bog is not needed.Cranberries on plants

Given the right growing conditions, cranberries can be an ornamental, edible groundcover. I once planted them as such, along with the other edible, ornamentals lowbush blueberry and lingonberry, as well as rhododendron and mountain laurel, non-edibles that enjoy these same soil conditions. The cranberries grew too well, threatening to overtake the rest of the bed. Since they were not my favorites among all the plants in the bed, they no longer live there.

Many more native American plants, such as beans, groundnuts, and Jerusalem artichokes, can round out this Thanksgiving feast. And, of course, among non-plants, turkey.



Popcorn Gets Bigger, But Medlar Is Still Ugly (Not To Me)

   A couple of weeks ago I wrote about increasing the poppability of my home-grown popcorn by exposing the kernels to the vapor of a saturated salt solution. Pennsylvania Dutch Butter Flavored popcorn, a variety that usually pops fairly well, popped to 1/3 greater volume.
    This week Pink Pearl, a variety that’s not usually a very good popper, underwent testing. The result: No effect of the treatment; both the treated and untreated batches popped pretty well. Was it the change in the weather, stronger hints of spring? Perhaps. (Previously, I pointed out how cold weather outside turns indoor air drier, perhaps too dry for good popcorn popping.) At any rate, Pink Pearl was tasty.

Medlar Teaches How To Prune A Fruit Plant

    The weather change also had the effect of drawing me outdoors more — for pruning. Looking at my medlar tree’s branches going every which way, I scratched my head (figuratively) wondering where to start, what to cut.
    Medlar is a fruit tree (more on medlar later), and the first step in pruning any fruit tree is attending to light. Light provides the energy for photosynthesis which translates into flavorful fruits. The goal is to let every branch bathe in sunlight, which also helps thwart potential disease problems.
    So I stopped scratching my head and started with a few dramatic pruning cuts, lopping some of the larger limbs back to their origins. Medlar has a naturally spreading growth habit, so cuts were aimed at removing limbs trying to fill in and shade the the center of the tree. I wanted a whorl of branches reaching up and out.

Medlar tree, after pruning

Medlar tree, after pruning

    Next to go were dead, diseased, and broken branches. I saw remnants of cicada damage from two years ago. Away with most of those stems also.
    For the next cuts, you have to know how a particular kind of fruit tree bears fruit. At one extreme are peaches. They bear only on one-year-old stems so need aggressive pruning each year to stimulate new shoots that become next year’s bearing, one-year-old stems. At the other extreme are apple and pear trees. They bear fruit on long-lived spurs, which are stumpy, branching stubs that develop on older limbs, so relatively little pruning is needed.
    Medlar’s bearing habit lies somewhere between those two extremes. I shortened a few very old branches to invigorate them with new growth.
    On most fruit trees, drooping branches make poorer fruit. Probably for medlar also. So off came the drooping branches, either back to non-droopy portions or to their origin.
    Finally, some detail work: shortening or removing those vigorous, vertical shoots called watersprouts; thinning out smaller areas of congested branches; removing stems growing too close to where major limbs exit the trunk; and lopping down root sprouts growing at or near ground level from the rootstock.
    Besides fruit, medlar offers beauty. Part of the beauty is the craggy shape of the tree, its muscular limbs clothed in golden brown bark. I stepped back to admire the tree and my work after pruning. If I’ve done a good job, the tree looks happily ready to bask in light and air and, because the major cuts removed limbs at the origin, hardly looks like it’s been pruned.

Medlar Teaches To Eat With Your Tongue, Not Your Eyes

    Medlar is a fruit whose popularity peaked in the Middle Ages. Charlemagne was a fan, a big fan who demanded the tree be planted in every town he conquered.

Medlar, fruit in summer

Medlar, fruit in summer

    Despite its popularity, even in the Middle Ages, the fruit has often been described disparagingly — for its appearance, though, not its flavor. The fruits resemble small, russeted apples, tinged dull yellow or red, with their calyx ends (across from the stems) flared open. “Open-arse” was the name Chaucer chose. A more recent writer described medlar as “a crabby-looking, brownish-green, truncated, little spheroid of unsympathetic appearance. “ (All recounted, along with information about growing, procuring, and eating medlars in the chapter on medlar in my book Uncommon Fruits for Every Garden.)

Medlar, after bletting

Medlar, after bletting

    Oh, one more quirk about medlar: The fruit, rock hard at harvest, needs to be bletted before eating. This means gently setting it on a counter in a cool room for a couple of weeks, or more, depending to the temperature, during which time the fruit’s interior turns to brown mush. Ugly to look at, but the flavor has a refreshing briskness with winy overtones, like old-fashioned applesauce laced with cinnamon. Between the fruits’ appearance and their need for bletting, you’ll never find medlars for sale on a supermarket shelf.
    Perhaps the fruit is ugly. The tree is not. I already mentioned the attractive form and color of the limbs. The white flowers, opening here in May, are like those of a wild rose, each one enhanced because its late opening gets a backdrop of a whorl of already unfurled, dark, green leaves. The tree grows only 8 or 10 feet high and wide and will fruit without another pollinator, so is perfect for a small yard. No need to decide whether to plant a fruit tree or an ornamental tree; medlar is both trees in one.

Medlar, tree in bloom

Medlar, tree in bloom



Popcorn & Chestnuts, Bigger is Better But Not Always

   Orville Redenbacker’s popcorn may be an “exclusive kernel hybrid that pops up lighter and fluffier than ordinary popcorn,” but my popcorn — nonhybrids whose seeds I’ve saved for many years — tastes better. I grow two varieties, Pink Pearl and Pennsylvania Dutch Butter Flavored Popcorn.
    This winter my popcorns’ poppability was especially poor, probably because of the weather. Really! Popcorn pops when the small amount of water within each kernel, heated above the boiling point, builds up enough pressure to explode the kernel, turning it inside out. For good popping, a kernel needs an intact hull and moisture within. Not just any amount of moisture, though, but as close as possible to 13.5%.
    (Other whole grains, such as wheat berries and rice, don’t pop with the same explosive force as popcorn because their hulls are porous.)Popcorn hanging from rafters for winter
    My popcorn spends winter, as ears, hanging from the kitchen rafters. I suspect the kernels are too dry because colder winter weather results in drier air indoors. Cold air holds less moisture than warm air so the colder the outdoor temperatures, the drier the air, once it is warmed.
    The kernels need moisture, but not more than 13.5%. Fortunately, for us popcorn lovers, back in 1950 a Mr. Stephen Dexter of Lansing, Michigan came up with an easy way to get the moisture just right, as spelled out in U.S. patent number 2497399. And for those of us who want to start eating our home-grown popcorn early in the season, when kernels may be too moist, his method also sucks excess moisture out of the kernels to bring the level down to 13.5%. Watch out Orville!
    Now for the method . . .  to quote, “I have discovered that popcorn can be maintained at the best popping condition or restored to that condition by storing it in a closed container in which the atmosphere is maintained at approximately 75% Popcorn being treated to pop betterrelative humidity. This relative humidity can be maintained throughout a wide range of temperatures by placing in the container a saturated solution of common table salt.” So the first step is to create a saturated solution of salt; I dissolved as much salt as possible (about 1.5 ounces) in a half a cup of water, and then added a little more to make sure that it was saturated.
    It’s important that the popcorn kernels don’t make contact with the salt solution. Mr Dexter maintained the right atmosphere by putting blotting paper soaked in the solution in a sealed container with the kernels. I put the kernels into a Mason jar and then set a beaker with the solution on top of the kernels.

A Little Science, A Lot Better Poppability

    Not to doubt Mr. Dexter or the patent process, but the scientist in me had to test the method. A handful of shucked kernels went into each of two Mason jars. One jar was left open to the atmosphere. The other was sealed after I set the beaker of salt solution atop the kernels. Poppability tests came 3 days later. Pennsylvania Dutch Butter Flavored Popcorn, which normally pops pretty well, popped to 1/3 greater volume after the moisture treatment. Pink Pearl awaits testing.

Positive results of popcorn treatment

Positive results of popcorn treatment

    At their best, neither would compare in volume increase with Orville Redenbacher’s popcorn, which claims a 44:1 increase. My popcorn costs nothing except my time (pleasantly spent) and is an organically grown, wholesome, whole grain that hangs decoratively from my kitchen rafter and tastes better. Let Orville have his fluff.

Editing my Chestnut Planting

    On to another grain, chestnuts, called the “grain that grows on trees” because, unlike other nuts, it’s low in fat and protein but high in starch. My trees demand little more from me than daily harvest during their two-week ripening period. I have 4 trees but harvest all the nuts I need from one tree, aptly named Colossal for the truly colossal size of the nuts it yield.
    Colossal, a hybrid of Castanea sativa (European chestnut) and C. crenata (Japanese chestnut), has its Achilles heel. Make that Achilles heels, plural. The first is that it is susceptible to the chestnut blight that decimated chestnut trees from

My majestic seedling Chinese chestnut

My majestic seedling Chinese chestnut

Maine to Georgia in the 20th century. Colossal is probably not quite as susceptible to blight as are American chestnuts; my trees, knock on (chestnut) wood, are 17 years old and have never had blight.
    More serious is IKB, internal kernel breakdown, which turns the kernels dark and ruins their flavor. IKB occurs in a certain percentage of nuts of European x Japanese varieties when they are pollinated by a Chinese chestnut (C. mollissima) or hybrid. And vice versa. Most of my other trees are Chinese or Chinese hybrids.
 Sprouting chestnut   I was going to plant some of my Colossal nuts to make more suitable pollinators for Colossal but, as chestnut researcher Dr. Dennis Fulbright of MSU pointed out to me, those seedlings would have some Chinese “blood” in them. Too bad; I wintered the nuts in a baggie with moist potting soil in my unheated basement. Those nuts now believe that winter is over, and are already sprouting roots.
    I’ll grit my teeth and put the chainsaw to my beautiful, large Chinese and Chinese hybrid chestnuts, and rely on my one, smaller Marigoule chestnut, a European x Japanese hybrid, to offer pollen to Colossal. Marigoule is blight susceptible, so I’m looking to plant another European x Japanese hybrid called Labor Day, which is blight resistant.

Filbert catkins

Filbert catkins

    At any rate, coming on the heels of winter, it’s nice to see something growing, even if it’s nothing more than a 2 inch root sprout that pushed its way out of a chestnut. Oh, and outside, filbert branches are now draped with catkins, chains of male flowers. And fuzzy, gray catkins have puffed out (indoors, on branches in a vase) on contorted stems of fantail pussy willow. And an abundance of tender green seedling are sprouting in the greenhouse. Happy spring!

Fruit, Grain, & Vegetable

Homegrown Persimmons, Popcorn, and Brussels Sprouts, All in Abundance

It’s raining persimmons! And every morning I go out to gather drops from beneath the trees. And every afternoon. And, depending on the wind and the temperature, sometimes early evenings also.Szukis persimmons in hand

The fruits are delicate, their soft jelly-flesh ready to burst through their thin, translucent skins. Most fruits survive the trip from branch to ground unscathed because of the close shorn, soft, thick lawn landing pad that awaits them. I pop any that burst right into my mouth or else toss them beyond the temporary, fenced-in area as a treat to my the ducks or to Sammy, my dog who has developed a taste for the fruit. (The ducks, Indian Runners, hardly fly but Sammy, if he put two and two together, could easily hop the low fence and beat me to the fruits.) Repeatedly gathering fruit through the day is needed to keep ahead of scavenging insects.

Diopsyros Szukis on lfls tree

Szukis persimmons, ready to eat even from leafless branches

American persimmons grow wild throughout much of the eastern part of our country, about as far north as the Hudson Valley. Wild trees bear either female or male flowers. Males, which never bear fruit, can each sire a few females, which are the ones that do bear fruit. Puckery flavor is the main problem with wild persimmons. They can make your mouth feel like a vacuum cleaner is at work within. All American persimmons elicit that unpleasant feeling until fully soft, colored, and ripe; some elicit the feeling, in some measure, even when ripe.

Planting a named variety can spell the difference between a fruit to spit out and a fruit to swoon over. Said variety needs to be one that, besides tasting good, ripens within the growing season, and isn’t harvested until dead ripe. (Many otherwise good varieties do not have time to ripen this far north.) Szukis and Mohler do particularly well here near the northern limit for persimmon growing, Mohler beginning its ripening at the end of August, and Szukis the end of September. Both varieties ripen fruits over a long period, for a month or more.

One more asset for Mohler, Szukis, and some other varieties is that they make males superfluous. They can set fruit parthenocarpically (without pollination) and/or by pollination from their own occasional male blossoms. Most Mohler and Szukis fruits are seedless, a sign of parthenocarpy, but occasional fruits have a seed or two, indicating that some pollination took place.

Once leaves drop from these trees, fruiting is not finished. Ripe, orange fruits will cling for weeks to bare branches like Christmas ornaments, although, with time, fruits shrivel and brown, losing their visual — but not gustatory — appeal. Not bad for a tree that needs nothing in the way of pruning or pest control, eh?

Popcorn’s Not Just for the Movies

With the fruit course out of the way, let’s move on to the grain course. I’ve tried growing wheat and rice on a (very small) garden scale, and yields were paltry and sometimes difficult to get at because of topheavy plants flopping to the ground. Flopping was probably due to too much fertility and moisture. Processing either grain was a project in itself, entailing removal of the grain from the stalks and then from their husks.Popcorn ready for harvest

The easiest grain to grow and process on a backyard scale is popcorn, which revels in my soil’s good fertility and moisture. I grow popcorn the same way as sweet corn, in “hills” (which, horticulturally speaking, are stations or clusters rather than raised mounds) with 3 to 4 plants per hill and two rows of hills in each 3 foot wide bed, with two feet from hill to hill within each row.

The only downside to growing popcorn on a small scale is the need to keep it away from sweet corn, if you grow that also. Planting sweet corn and popcorn too close to each other lets them cross-pollinate, resulting in sweet corn that is less sweet and popcorn kernels than wanly split to exhale steam rather than blow apart till they’re inside out.

Even with popcorn grown in sufficient isolation, correct moisture level (20 percent) is what makes for good popping. I wait to harvest until the ears and husks are dry on the stalks. After harvest, I peel back the husk, leaving a few layers, pull off the browned silk, then tie 3 or 4 ears together by their pulled back husks and hang the bunch from the kitchen rafters to dry.

The ears hang from the rafters all year ready for popping. When I feel like eating some popcorn, I just twist the kernels off a cob; microwavers can put the cob, intact, into their microwave ovens. I find that poppability varies through the year, probably depending on the temperature and the humidity.

If I sought maximum poppability, I could measure the moisture level by accurately weighing out a portion of kernels and drying them in a 150°F. oven overnight, then re-weighing them. But how big the kernels can puff up isn’t nearly as important to me as the fact that popcorn is an easy-to-grow, nutritious, whole grain that’s tasty and fun to eat.

The Sprouts Responded to Being Pinched

Finally, moving on to the vegetable course. A few weeks ago I wrote about sizing up the sprouts of Brussels sprouts by pinching the tips of the plants. That stops the production of the hormone auxin, which had been suppressing sprout growth further down along the stem.

Pinched Brussels sprouts plants have larger sprouts

Pinched Brussels sprouts plants have larger sprouts

The suppression is only temporary. As uppermost buds start to grow, they, in turn, start pumping down auxin. Those 3 or 4 upper buds now threaten to expand to become stems. At this point they can do what they will because lower buds — the sprouts — have all puffed up to good size.

Controversial Garlic & Corn

When to Plant & Whether to Plant, Corn & Garlic

Into the ground goes the stinking rose. That’s garlic. As a matter of fact, by the time you read this my garlic cloves will have been in the ground for awhile, since the beginning of the month, already sending roots out into the soft earth.

Planting garlic this early is sacrilege in most garlic circles. But it may make sense.

Garlic needs a period of cool weather, with temperatures in the 40s, to develop heads. Without that cool period, a planted clove merely grows larger, without multiplying. Which is why it’s planted in fall. Spring-planted garlic might still get sufficiently chilled or needs to be artificially chilled, but yields are generally are lower than fall-planted garlic. Garlic cloves planted 4 inches apart in a furrow.

Lower yields could also be because the cloves, planted in spring, must put energy into growing both leaves and roots. Roots grow whenever soil temperatures are above 40 degrees F., so fall-planted cloves start growing roots immediately. And for quite a while because, with the ground cooling more slowly than the air, balmy weather lingers long in the soil in fall, especially when it’s covered with an insulating layer of wood chips, compost, straw, or other organic mulch.

My reasoning for late summer planting rather than fall planting is that the sooner the bulbs are in the ground, the more time roots have to grow before temperatures drop consistently below 40 degrees. More root growth now means more roots to fuel leaf growth in spring which, in turn, means bigger heads to harvest next summer. More root growth also means that cloves are more firmly anchored into the ground through winter, so are less likely to heave up and out of the ground as it freezes and thaws.

The caution against planting as early as I suggest is that leaves might awaken and push up through the ground in fall, only to be snuffed out by winter cold. True. But garlic is a monocotyledenous plant, so its growing point, like that of other “monocots” (such as lilies, onions, grasses, orchids, and bananas), lies beneath the ground, protected from cold. The usual recommendation for garlic planting is to plant early enough to allow time for some root growth but late enough so leaves don’t appear aboveground.

Leaves peering above ground in fall might even help spur root growth, at least once they start exporting energy. (Their initial growth is fueled by energy reserves in the planted clove.) Even if winter cold kills the leaves, they will have done some good if they begin growth soon enough. The sloppy mess of frozen leaves could, admittedly, breed unwelcome bacteria or fungi.

Biological systems are complex, and plants don’t read what I write and may not follow my reasoning. Just to check, I planted only half of my garlic bed; I’ll plant the other half in a month, the recommended planting time. Next summer I’ll know if my garlic cloves followed my reasoning.

Corn, Worth Planting

Garlic is for the future; sweet corn is for the present. Whoever it was — and there were plenty of those “whoevers” — that recommended against growing sweet corn in a small garden because it wasn’t worth the space did a disservice to gardeners. My garden isn’t all that big yet we’ve been harvesting all the sweet corn we can eat and freeze since early August and will continue to do so for much of this month.

Sweet corn can share a bed with other vegetables, lettuce here.

Sweet corn can share a bed with other vegetables, lettuce here.

My vegetable garden is in 18 foot long, 3 foot wide beds, and I planted 4 beds at two week intervals from early May until the third week in June. I sowed the seeds sown in hills (clumps) to end up with 3 to 4 plants every two feet in a double row running down each bed. Planting in hills provides better pollination and resistance to wind than planting rows of single, more closely spaced plants.

Each stalk yields one or two ears, so a conservative 1.5 ears per stalk and 3 plants per hill computes to yields of 81 ears of corn from each of four beds. That’s a lot of sweet corn! And not just any sweet corn, but Golden Bantam Sweet corn, the standard of excellence in sweet corn a hundred years ago. You can’t buy ears of this variety these days. It’s the only one I grow.

Corn, densely planted, and ready for harvest

Corn, densely planted, and ready for harvest

Pumping out all those delectable ears requires good growing conditions. To whit: Very fertile, well drained soil; water as needed; and little competition from weeds. I slathered the beds with an inch or more of compost in spring and all summer plants’ thirst has been daily and automatically quenched with drip irrigation.

I didn’t even have to devote those beds to only sweet corn for the whole season. Earliest plantings were preceded and are followed by quickly maturing vegetables such as lettuce, spinach, and radishes. Turnips, winter radishes, and bush beans are other possibilities to follow harvest of those first sowings of sweet corn. A row of carrots and beets was sown

Delectable Golden Bantam, a hit since 1906

Delectable Golden Bantam, a hit since 1906

up the middle of the second planting shortly after the corn emerged and is doing fine now that the corn has been harvested and those plants cleared away. I’m still trying to figure out what to plant to follow the third planting, which is just finishing up.

I also grow popcorn, but that’s another, also delectable story.

A corn bed, a few weeks after harvest & cleanup

A corn bed, a few weeks after harvest & cleanup