Guest blogger Alison Levey writes about her vegetable eating and growing experiences and the satisfaction of growing sweetcorn from seed…
The joy of sweetcorn
I have to begin this post with a confession, there are far more vegetables I do not like than I actually do. In terms of vegetables it is fair to say I have an immature palate. As a child in the 1960s if it was not in a tin, involving lots of sugar and preferably some sort of day-glo food colouring, I probably was not going to eat any vegetable you put in front of me. So that I now grow a fair amount of my own vegetables is quite an achievement.
I did improve and start to eat fresh (and frozen) vegetables after a while and I also discovered sweet corn. We never had sweet corn in my house when growing up, it was quite expensive at that point and largely available in tins involving a rather tall green man on the label. As often, with many new things that I discovered food-wise, I was at a friend’s house for tea and in order to be polite I knew I had to try and eat it, I found out I loved it. Years of sweetcorn buying ensued, largely the frozen sort as I had moved beyond my love of the tinned and it was more available to buy in general.
Add to this a conversation some-time ago with a work colleague, who was describing the fun of growing sweetcorn. He told me that it had to be sown in a grid pattern to ensure that that the cobs were pollenated by the breeze. I liked the sound of this and thought one day I would like to grow sweetcorn.
I had also read about the three sisters, the planting of sweetcorn, beans and squash in the same plot as they grow well together and support each other, I believe this practice was first carried out by native americans. This beneficial companion planting seemed ideal to me and I liked its practicality and the sisterhood of it all.
I do have a further confession, that whilst I said I grow my own vegetables I could not be considered a major vegetable grower or indeed an expert one. I have played at growing vegetables for several years. I began growing the odd sprouted potato as a child and that wonder has never left me. I do now possess some raised vegetable beds in the garden and over the past few years I have been refining what I grow and my care of them. In general I grow easy vegetables that I like to eat. I am fairly self-sufficient in onions and garlic and I do well with potatoes, french beans and peas. Courgettes are always grown too. This year I decided I would give sweetcorn a go. I bought the kernels and duly sowed them. The mouse that had taken up residence in the greenhouse duly ate them. The mouse then also ate a ricinus bean and that took care of the mouse. I resowed the sweetcorn and was amazed at how quickly and easily it germinated.
Once the frosts were over I planted it outside in a grid pattern. I deliberately only grew four plants this year and I had no idea how successful they would be. I planted with them some cobra beans and some courgettes (ok, not squash, but I don’t like squash very much), so sort of two sisters and a cousin.
They grew well; their tops took on the definite likeness of an old television aerial. At this point I have an ever larger confession; I was not actually certain where in the plant the cobs formed. When I saw them coming out at different angles on the stem I was actually surprised.
I was even more surprised when two of them actually ripened enough to be eaten; they were without doubt the best I have ever tasted. This has not been the hottest summer we have ever had and I did not expect them to do well.
It has to be said that four plants leading to two cobs is not the most productive vegetable you will find. Next year I will grow more than four as this year was definitely the pilot project. I know now though that I will not probably get a huge yield. I do not mind this, they are fun to grow. I wished in some way that my children were younger as they seem ideal vegetables for a child to grow. The kernels are easy to handle and they germinate like a dream. If anyone asks me now what vegetable should they get children to grow, I would put sweet corn on the list. For me they certainly induce a child-like wonder and I think I will grow them for many years to come.
My blog can be found at: http://ozhene.blogspot.co.uk/