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Sweet Corn Not Your Average Ear of Corn

Corn is believed to have been the first crop grown in North Dakota.

While originally grown by subsistence farmers, it recently has become a profitable cash crop for local farmers.

Sweet corn is a little different than field corn. Field corn is what most large farms produce; only 1% of the corn grown in the U.S. is sweet corn.

The majority of field corn is used as animal feed, to produce ethanol or to create foods such as high-fructose corn syrup or corn flour. Sweet corn is higher in sugar and lower in starch content than other types of corn, making it especially sweet and delicious for consumption.

Sweet corn contains folate and iron, which can help reduce the risk for anemia. Corn also is high in insoluble fiber, which feeds your beneficial gut bacteria, aiding in digestion and helping keep you regular.

Corn is a member of the grass family, putting it in the same botanical family as rice, wheat and sugar cane. We eat the seeds, or grain, of this family.

Corn is a warm-season crop, meaning that it needs to be planted after the soil reaches a temperature of 60 degrees. This usually occurs a couple of weeks after the first frost in the spring.

Unlike many plants, corn is wind pollinated, meaning that it does not need the help of insects. Therefore, it should be planted in blocks of short rows instead of a long singular row for maximum pollination. The corn should be in rows of at least four plants for proper growth.

Each stalk will produce a few ears of corn, so the best option might be to plant during the course of a couple of weeks so that the harvest doesn’t all happen at once.

Determining when corn is ready to be harvested can be tricky because it will not ripen visibly on the outside. To check if it is ready, peel back the husk and check if the ear is completely filled out and the kernels are full size.

Even though it has a higher sugar content, meaning it should stay preserved longer, sweet corn should be cooked within three days after harvesting.

For more information on safely growing, processing and selling corn and other specialty crops in North Dakota, visit NDSU Extension’s Field to Fork website at



 Abigail Glaser, NDSU dietetics and management communication student

 Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension food and nutrition specialist

 Gabrick, A. (July 2, 2009). Nutritional Benefits of Corn. Retrieved from

 U.S. Department of Agriculture. (n.d.). U.S. Forest Service. Retrieved from

This project was supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service through grant 14-SCBGP-ND-0038. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the USDA.

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