Extension and Ag Research News


Dakota Gardener: Finding love in a corn field

There has been amazing progress in the development of sweet corn varieties over our lifetimes.

By Tom Kalb, Horticulturist

NDSU Extension

How do you find the love of your life?

When I lived in Taiwan, a friend told me that finding a spouse is just like picking an ear of corn in a corn field.

You enter the corn field and start walking down a row. There are lots of corn cobs to choose from, but you can select only one.

You can look at the corn cobs, but you cannot open the husks of the cob and reveal its beauty. That must wait until after you select it.

In most cases, the best ear in the field is not the first one you see. But don’t wait until you get to the end of the row when only a few ears are remaining.

Once you have found a great ear, smile and harvest it. Rejoice and enjoy the corn cob forever!

That’s a fun story.

When I select a sweet corn to grow in my garden, I consider sweetness and strength.

First, I want sweetness. There has been amazing progress in the development of sweet corn varieties over our lifetimes. The varieties of today are up to three times sweeter than the “normal” sweet corn varieties grown in the past.

However, the first “super sweet” varieties were weak growers. Their kernels were so sweet that they lacked starch. Their seeds lacked starch too. Their seeds were shriveled, lacked energy and struggled to germinate in cold soil.

In recent years, there have been tremendous improvements in the development of super sweet varieties that can germinate well in cold soil.

In trials conducted at hundreds of gardens throughout our state, the best of the super sweet, bicolor varieties have been American Dream, Anthem, Catalyst and Xtra-Tender 274A. We focus on bicolor-kernel varieties because consumers today prefer a mix of yellow and white kernels.

Slightly less sweet, but more tender bicolor varieties include Ambrosia, Delectable, Luscious, Peaches and Cream, Sweetness and Temptation.

If you like old-fashioned, not-so-sweet flavor, you can’t beat Jubilee. My family grew this yellow variety 50 years ago when we sold the best-tasting corn at the Minneapolis Farmers’ Market and the Minnesota State Fair.

Whether or not you find the varieties mentioned in this article at your garden center, read the seed packet carefully and look for a few important qualities. The kernels should be sweet, tender and bright. The stalks should be strong. The seeds should tolerate tough conditions such as cold soil.

Let me repeat: It should be sweet, tender, bright, strong and tough. Those are the qualities of a great sweet corn.

Come to think of it, those are the qualities of a great spouse, too.

By the way, this story has a happy ending. I found a great ear of corn (wife) in Taiwan.

For more information about gardening, contact your NDSU Extension county agent. Find the Extension office for your county at www.ndsu.edu/agriculture/extension/county-extension-offices.

NDSU Agriculture Communication – April 11, 2023

Source: Tom Kalb, 701-328-9722, tom.kalb@ndsu.edu

Editor: Kelli Anderson, 701-231-6136, kelli.c.anderson@ndsu.edu


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