Tag Archives: sweetcorn

Sowing this week

This week we finished planting the first of our outdoor potato beds, laying out 18 tubers of second early Wilja. This is, for us, a fairly modern variety, bred in Holland in the 1970s. It crops and stores well and can be treated as an early main crop. Mid way between floury and waxy, Wilja is a versatile potato and a good choice if growing only one sort. We had already prepared the bed for the first earlies that went in a few weeks ago, so it was just a matter of digging holes with the trowel, dropping in the tubers, and covering over. We also took the last of the seed potatoes, which we had stored in the fridge to retard them, and put them to chit; these will go in the second potato bed in a few weeks’ time. Continue reading

Sweetcorn salad

Freshly picked cobs of corn

Freshly picked cobs of corn

Sweetcorn is one of our favourite late summer crops. It takes up a fair bit of space so we only make two plantings – one under cover and one outdoors. The harvest is brief but there are few things better than freshly picked corn. We usually just simmer it for five minutes, slather in butter and seasoning, and enjoy it on the cob. For a change, though, we put together this simple salad. Continue reading

Swiss chard with sweetcorn

The versatile leaves of swiss chard

The versatile leaves of Swiss chard

Swiss chard is a versatile crop that can be sown from spring through to late summer or early autumn. It is, perhaps, most useful when sown late and overwintered for a spring harvest, when other vegetables can be in short supply. The young plants stand well through the winter and then put on vigorous growth as conditions improve in the spring, providing a great harvest from a relatively small space. At this time of year, the chard is just about to go to seed, so the harvest from the overwintered plants is coming to an end. When young, the smaller leaves can be used for the salad, whilst the larger leaves can be cooked like spinach. The thick ribs can also be cooked separately or added to stocks and soups. I often prepare a dish with both, braising the ribs until tender and adding the greens towards the end of cooking. At this time of year, though, the ribs are a little coarse so I wanted a quick side dish to use up the last of the enormous leaves. Continue reading

Sowing this week

This week we started sowing more of the tender crops. We started with French bean Beurre de Rocquencourt, a dwarf wax bean bearing pale yellow pods. Whilst the outdoor crop of climbing French and runner beans will provide a heavy crop over a long period, they take some time to develop. A dwarf bean will produce a crop rather more quickly as they do not need to put on so much vegetative growth before they bear. I am hoping to find some space in the polytunnel for our first crop, which might also help a little. I could, perhaps, have sown a couple of weeks ago, but beans are tender and there is still a possibility of a frost, even in the polytunnel. I sowed in pots, several seeds to each, rather than direct, as I sometimes do with beans later in the year. In pots they are easier to protect from the cold and from pests. Continue reading

Seed list 2014 – part 6 – odds and ends

This final article in the series looking at our sowing plans for 2014 covers those odds and ends that did not fit well in any of the previous parts. Included here are the tubers – potatoes and Jerusalem artichokes. At some point I would like to experiment with other tubers, such as oca, but I doubt that we will get around to it this year. Also included are various leafy things. Continue reading

Seeds at Amsterdam’s Bloemenmarkt

The floating stalls of Amsterdam’s flower market

Among the many sights of Amsterdam, there is the floating flower market, although one is not really aware that the row of large stalls is floating alongside one of the many canals, being so securely fixed in place. Its claim to be the world’s only floating flower market is, then, not nearly as impressive as it might at first appear. January is not the ideal time to visit such an attraction. The great many bulbs and some early flowers were equally matched with tourist tat, but I was pleased to find a wide range of fruit and vegetable seeds for sale and whiled away an hour or so looking for those varieties that are on my ‘list’ as well as one or two new varieties to try. Continue reading

Disappointing second crop of sweetcorn

Our first crop of sweetcorn this year, sown on 30 April, was a great success. We grew a variety called Lark, which has given us excellent results three years in a row now. As with almost all readily available varieties, this is an F1 hybrid. Sweetcorn is one of those crops for which it is actually quite difficult to find an open pollinated variety, and one of the few hybrids that I still grow, although I am hoping to remedy that. One of the drawbacks of the hybrids, at least for the home grower, is that they tend to become ready to harvest at the same time. Whilst this may be advantageous for the commercial grower, who wants to mechanically harvest an entire crop at one time, it is rather the opposite of what the homegrower typically needs. Thus, we enjoyed delicious corn for a short period and then it was all over. Continue reading

Testing sweetcorn for ripeness

Silks turning brown

I posted recently a brief article on the pollination of sweetcorn. Naturally, the next question is how to tell when the cobs are ready to harvest? The first sign to look for is the silks – the bundle of fine threads at the end of the cob – turning brown and beginning to shrivel. With a little experience, one should be able to see, and feel, whether the cob has filled out with plump kernels. However, there is no need for guesswork, as there is quite a good way to test for ripeness.

Peel back the outer husk from the end of the cob. If the kernels are not plump, wrap it back up and leave for a few more days. Sometimes a cob will not be completely filled with kernels; poor pollination is the most probable cause, which is especially likely during dull or wet weather. There is no reason, though, not to still enjoy a partially pollinated cob. Continue reading

Pollination of sweetcorn

Polytunnel crop of sweetcorn

Sweetcorn or maize (Zea mays), is likely to be the only cereal crop that the general kitchen gardener will grow. It is a grass, and consequently wind pollinated. Generally, it is a low maintenance crop once established, and can be grown successfully outdoors or under cover. Sweetcorn grows a long stem, which, depending upon variety, is typically five to eight feet tall. Our polytunnel crop this year has grown rather taller than the same variety grown outdoors in the two preceding years. The stem bears some resemblance to bamboo; leaves grow from each node, and the cobs form between leaf and stem several nodes up the stem. Depending upon planting density, one plant can support several cobs, and I would expect to get, on average, 1½ well formed cobs per plant. Continue reading