A frost warning may be in effect in your area this week!
On the farm, August was always the time of year when we were harvesting corn like mad. We grew many varieties and were always trialing a few new ones each year. Basically, sweet corn all falls into one of three categories: standard-sugar, sugar-enhanced, and super-sweet.
Standard-sugar was the earliest to mature, but had a very short harvest "window." One week, it would taste great but by the following week it would be starchy, tough, and bland tasting—cattle corn, as my Dad would say! The sugar-enhanced andsuper-sweet varieties matured a week or two later but held their sweetness for weeks.
The consensus amongst the family members and customers was that the sugar enhanced and super sweet varieties were, by far, superior to the standard sugar varieties. Over time, we gradually eliminated the standard-sugar varieties and grew only the sugar-enhanced and super-sweet.
But now the debate at the lunch table was which of the two types of corn was thetrue "King of the Cornfield."
I felt that the crown belonged to the super-sweet corn varieties because they were unsurpassed in sweetness, but my Dad always found them too sweet. After numerous arguments where I declared that the super-sweets were the corn kings, I eventually learned one thing—Dad was right.
Over time, I came around to his way of thinking and switched my allegiance to the sugar-enhanced varieties. They had plenty of sweetness yet a bit more of that "traditional" corn flavour. Besides, the super-sweets (while still outstanding) had tougher kernels that always managed to get lodged in my teeth!
Now, if you really get into corn growing, be aware that you may be prone to "corn snobbery." Corn snobbery is the equivalent of wine snobbery. You will know if you are a corn snob if you start critiquing the corn by variety and turning up your nose up at the standard-sugar varieties. And you are absolutely a corn snob if you ever use terms like "terroir," "tip fill," and "18 rows varieties."
Come to think of it, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone already has a list of corn variety and wine pairings. May I suggest a Pinot with your super-sweet?
Corn has long been a popular vegetable and all the more so when freshly harvested. The taste will far surpass anything you'll find in a grocery store!
As you may already know, corn does best in warm climates and soil. But with a few precautions, growing corn in Alberta can be well worth it.
Corn needs be planted in blocks of 3-4 rows instead of in a single long row, with each plant at least 24" apart. This encourages better corn pollination, because each plant will have at least three neighbors from which it can catch and retain pollen. The more pollen available, the greater the number of kernels on each ear.
Corn is also a heavy feeder - particularly of nitrogen - and may require several side-dressings of fertilizer for best yields.
If you follow these simple rules, you're sure to get a great crop. All there is left to do is decide which variety of corn you'd like to grow! Here are a few suggestions you might enjoy:
Peaches & Cream Corn - A perfect blend of luscious, white and yellow kernels that produce two different flavours in every bite!
Corn on the cob is one of the best, and most highly anticipated summer treats, and is great for grilling with the husks left on. Home-grown corn has amazing flavour and sweetness, so much better than what you find in the grocery stores. This sugary enhanced hybrid holds its sweet flavor longer after picking.
Peaches and Cream corn produces 20cm long ears with 14 delicious rows of sugar-sweet kernels; an excellent variety for the home garden!
White Corn - Sugar Pearl - The sweetest, prettiest white corn in the garden—and it arrives super early!
Sugar Pearl's fast-growing, vigorous stalks grow just 5 to 5-1/2 feet tall, producing delicious ears of pearly white sweet kernels with that delicate, meltingly tender flavour that characterizes really delicious white corn.
This trouble-free and reliable variety is ideal for short or early season growing, ripening succulent ears before most other white varieties.
Sweet Corn - Kandy Korn - A sweet corn so delicious it's often requested by name!
Kandy Korn is outstanding not only for its flavour but also for its long, late harvest. It has 16-20 rows of delectable, sweet, golden kernels, and can be harvested just 89 days after planting.
This popular variety grows on tall, vigorous stalks, with plump ears that are fantastic for eating fresh, or freezing and canning.
Corn - Luscious - If you like your corn sweet, Luscious really lives up to it's name.
With a good balance of sugars and corn taste, the attractive blunt 17-20cm long ears are just what you want in an early mid-season bicolour.
Luscious is easy to grow, too, with good cold-soil emergence and early vigor.
Popcorn - Robust - When you think of eating healthy, popcorn may not be the first food that comes to mind. But this dent corn relative is one of the best all-around snack foods around, providing almost as much protein, iron and calcium as beef!
A cup of popped, un-buttered popcorn contains fewer calories than half a medium-sized grapefruit. Popcorn, a whole grain, has as much fiber as Bran Flakes or whole wheat toast. Who knew!
With Robust, you'll enjoy easy-to-digest, hull-less eating quality of crisp, tender popcorn that has a larger popping volume than old open-pollinated varieties.
A frost warning is in effect and we've received a lot of phone calls from people asking about what can stay outside and what needs to come in. Here's our quick guide:
- Apples: A light frost will not affect the apples and may even make them sweeter. Barring a severe September storm, leave your apples on the tree until they are ripe (mid- to late- September for most late bearing apples).
- Beans and Peas: Will not tolerate frost. Harvest these guys and eat them up!
- Beets, Carrots, Onions, Potatoes: Protected underground, these vegetables do fine in a light frost and their flavour may even improve with the cold. That said, harvest them before the ground freezes.
- Chard, Kale, and Cabbage: These plants should all survive a light frost. Cold temperatures will even intensify the colour and flavour of chard, and may sweeten cabbage.
- Corn: Corn is frost sensitive. If your corn is ready, pick it now. If it is not yet ready to harvest, cross your fingers and hope for the best. A hard frost will reduce the shelf life of corn to 3 to 4 days.
- Lettuce and Salad Greens: Cold will affect the look and texture of lettuce and salad greens, but they can survive a light frost. If you’d like, harvest the tops of the lettuce and see if they come back afterwards.
- Tomatoes and Peppers: Harvest any ripe tomatoes and all peppers. Unripe tomatoes are bit more complicated. If you’re feeling cautious and would rather not deal with any stress, harvest them all now—ripe or not.
If you’re feeling daring and if the forecast cooperates for the next day or two, you may be able to get away with bringing the tomato vines close to the house (preferably on the south side of the house) and covering them with some light bed sheets to protect them from the frost.
However, if the forecast dips below -2°C, the tomatoes will probably end up covered in frost anyways even with these precautions. Keep an eye on your local temperature, and harvest the unripe tomatoes if necessary. Green tomatoes can be ripened inside on sheets of newspaper.
- Pumpkins, Squash, Zucchini, Cucumbers: Cucumbers, zucchini, and summer varieties of pumpkin and squash should be harvested now, wiped dry, and cured in a hot, dry room for a few days to improve shelf life.
Properly cured, they may store for a few weeks. Avoid storing these fruits on concrete or metal surfaces as it can cause them to rot.
Thin skinned cucumbers will not store as well and should be eaten within a few days.
Some pumpkins and squash are "winter varieties" and can store very well if properly cured. Harvest any mature “winter variety” gourds before a frost (they will have a nice tough skin when mature) and do your best to protect the immature ones by covering them with a sheet. Immature gourds will not ripen off the vine or once the vine has died, so protecting them and hoping for the best is the best strategy. Be careful not to crush the vines.