When my brother and I were little I can remember our obsession with planting our own corn fields in May when dad set off in the tractor to sow his many acres. We wanted to grow our own corn on the cob to enjoy! We plotted out a square behind the barn and planted the little seeds we picked up off the ground outside the machine shed. We had to flag off our plots so that Grandpa wouldn't accidentally mow them over. He always taught us about picking a fertile piece of ground and remembering to water the plants each day. He taught us about conserving the land and being responsible with pesticides and herbicides. He taught us about our family history and how generations had planted the same piece of ground year after year. He should have taught us a little more about patience because it takes about 3 months for a corn plant to finally tassel and in little kid time - that is a century! When the plants would finally mature enough to produce an ear, you can imagine the built up excitement that my brother and I possessed. After shucking the first ear we were so thrilled about our end product and excited for our sweet, succulent corn on the cob.....we were absolutely thrilled, that is, until we realized it was field corn!
So, what's the difference between field corn and sweet corn?
- Sweet corn is often sold in the produce aisle at the grocery store.
- It only accounts for about 5% of the corn grown in the U.S.
- It is bred for it's sweet taste.
- It is harvested in the milk stage when the kernels are soft.
- It is more susceptible to pests and stress.
- It often produces much lower yields.
- It is planted later than field corn when the ground is warmer.
- Field corn is often used in animal feeds or processed further for human consumption.
- It is bred for it's starch value.
- It is harvested in the hard and relatively dry kernel stage.
- It is much hardier, taller and has much wider leaves than sweet corn plants.
- The seed kernels are much smoother.
- It is genetically dominant to sweet corn. This means that when a pollen from a field corn plant pollinates sweet corn, the kernel will always result in field corn.
- You can eat field corn, just like corn on the cob, but it is not preferred.
For more information, and if you'd like to plant your own sweet corn plot this spring - contact your local Extension Office. Or you can visit this Extension.org!
Now I'm craving some roasting ears,