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.

Guest blogger - Alison Levey

Sweetcorn plants

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.

Guest blogger - Alison Levey

Sweetcorn – getting bigger!

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.

Guest blogger - Alison Levey

Growing sweetcorn is really satisfying!

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.

Guest blogger - Alison Levey

Getting there…

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.

Guest blogger - Alison Levey

Ta dah!

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.

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