How to grow Mini Sweet Corn
The following report provides an interesting insight to one of the informative experiments worked on by members of Garden Organic. It was published in The Organic Way (then HDRA News) 1997, volume 148. Reported by Cleo Gosling and Susanne Schuller.
Garden Organic Member's experiment.
In 1995 the member's experiment to grow 'Minor' sweet corn received an enthusiastic response with 170 people returning record sheets. This variety is supposed to produce a good crop of 'mini' cobs suitable for eating whole.
Most experimenters (144) chose to raise their plants in pots and transplanted them to their final position. This achieved fairly good germination with 60% of the participants reporting excellent or good germination rates. Of those who tried direct sowing outside, only 38% reported excellent of good germination. Once transplanted, plants grew very slowly initially but then 'shot up'. Most people planted their corn in a sunny position and 74% found growth very good. Plants grown in a shady spot did not do so well but even here growth was satisfactory.
Earwigs proved the most common pest (11 cases). Badgers, mice, rats, birds and even a dog were accused of nibbling the corn, but on the whole 'Minor' appeared disease and pest free.
Only 13 of the 170 experimenters found they could not complete the experiment, mainly due to drought. A few had problems with rats, birds, and even deer.
Unfortunately, some experimenters were confused with instructions asking them to pick the cobs while still young. They were expecting the variety to be a true miniature but soon found the cobs grew to full size if left to mature. Mini cobs are simply immature cobs, picked when they reach 5-7cm (2-3in) long. Despite the misunderstanding, some interesting information was gained. 25% of experimenters left the cobs to grow to full size. These cobs weighed between 5 and 12oz and proved quite a hit. They were ready for harvesting from the end of July to the end of September (October in some areas). Plants produced and average of 2 cobs each, even when the cobs were picked small. The majority of the mini cobs weighed under 1oz but some reached 2oz.
How to cook
The most common method used to cook cobs, small and large, was boiling, followed by stir frying, steaming and microwaving. When boiled, 41% of tasters said the cobs were sweet and tender, 32% agreed when the cobs were stir fried, 46% when steamed and 52% when microwave. Other descriptions of the cooked taste included nutty and crisp. Only 10% complained that the cobs were bitter, 10% found the larger cobs were tough and 3% said the cobs tasteless.
When tried raw, 70% described the cobs as sweet and tender. Descriptions included nutty, crispy and juicy. More interesting were 'like fresh raw peas' and purely delicious'. On a more negative note, 5% described the cobs as starchy, 1% bitter, 4% tough and tasteless.
Mini corn - was it worth all the work ?
When asked if they would grow 'Minor' sweet corn again for its mini cobs, two out of three said yes or maybe; the other third said definitely not. Many people feel that the yield of cobs (2 plants on average) was not sufficient to warrant the space needed. Leaving the cobs to grow to full size is a much better idea.