Few crops are as eagerly anticipated on our plot as sweetcorn. The deliciously sweet flavour seems to encapsulate the warmth of the summer sun just at the time of year when the nights are really starting to set in and the weather is starting to feel decidely wintery. Sweetcorn can be a tricky crop to get right though, so here are my tips for a successful harvest:
- Get the plants started as early as you can in April or May in a greenhouse or on a warm windowsill. They won't tolerate being in the cold at all but do need a good growing season so it's best to give them as much of a head start as you can and then get them outside as soon as the risk of frost has passed at the end of May or beginning of June.
- Sweetcorn is a greedy crop so make sure that the bed they are being planted in has been given plenty of well rotted manure or garden compost the autumn before.
- The plants need to be planted in blocks and not lines to allow for wind pollination. This also means that the more plants you have room to grow the better as this gives them the best chance of being pollinated.
- Protect your plants against squirrels who will eat your whole crop if they get the chance. And you can guarantee they'll get there just before you're about to pick the corn because they seem to have a nose for spotting when it's perfectly ripe!
- The best way to decide when your corn is ready to pick is to wait until the threads that come out of the top of the cob dry out and turn to a light, autumnal brown colour. When this happens pick one cob to see if it is ready - you can do this by pressing a single kernel of corn with you finger nail. If the juicy little gem pops easily it means it's ready. If it's still hard you're best to wait a couple of days before trying again.
Then, if you manage to get through all of this, all you need to do is get a pan of water boiling on the hob, cut a sliver of butter and grind some blackpepper in anticipation of possibly the most deliciously simple meal you could dream of eating.