It’s January and the temps are plummeting again outside. The last couple mornings here have been below zero, something we’re still getting used to. The land is still frozen, there’s left over snow in the fields, but I’ve got my mind on spring.
I’ve been flipping through the seed catalogs, trying to put together our 2017 planting strategy. I’m excited for the all the varieties of vegetables and fruit we have planned for this year, but I think I’m the most excited about sweet corn.
We used to buy our sweet corn from a couple of farm stands in Washington, and it was always delicious. We’d buy them by the sacks and we’d freeze what we didn’t set aside to eat on the cob. Because of the timing of our move last summer, we weren’t able to freeze as much corn as we wanted. And this year we get to grow our own!
So I’m doing research on a couple of varieties we’ll experiment with this year. And the more I learn about corn, the more I realize how versatile a resource it really is. Sweet corn is great in summer, but what about growing varieties that will allow you to make your own corn meal or flour? What about popcorn?
Here’s a short list of a few varieties outside of the norm that you might consider growing this spring:
Glass Gem – This is a newer, late maturing (105 days) variety that has quickly created a buzz in the seed world. Its unique colored kernels are translucent and are supposed to sparkle in the sun when dried, just like rare gems. Used as an ornamental, this variety is also supposed to be very good for popcorn (don’t think big fluffy puffs that taste as bland as Styrofoam like you get at the store; these are smaller puffs that are packed with taste) or can be ground into meal or flour. The stalks are also strong, and grow up to ten feet, which is another fall ornamental plus.
We plan on experimenting with this variety on a small-scale. You can buy seed from many of the organic or heirloom seed companies, including SeedSavers Exchange (seedsavers.org) or Victory Seeds (victoryseeds.com). Cost will be around $2.99 for 50 seeds.
Smoke Signals – Another multi colored, ornamental or popcorn variety, but this one is USDA certified organic if that’s important to your planning. Kernels will grow in shades of blue, pink, mahogany, white and yellow. Most plants will grow up to three ears. This is also a late maturing variety (100 days).
You can order this from Seed Savers Exchange for about $2.99 per pack of 100 seeds
Sugar Buns – This yellow variety has more going for it than just its name. It’s a super sweet, early maturing (70 days) variety that boasts of its long harvest capability, remaining tender even two weeks after maturity in the field. It also has shown leaf blight. A perfect option for colder, northern regions. And yellow corn is high in Vitamin A!
You can buy Sugar Buns from Johnny’s Seeds (johnnyseeds.com) for $4.10 for a packet of 150 seeds, or buy in bulk at 1000 seeds for $7.35.
Aces – Another early maturing (78 days) sweet corn variety. Good flavor and tender bi-colored kernels. Also shows high tolerance against leaf blight. This would make for great grilling or freezing for winter meals. High yield potential.
Harris Seed Company (harrisseed.com) has this at $16.20 for 1000 seeds.
Cherokee White Eagle – This variety is a great option if you want to make your own corn meal. Blue and white kernels at maturity (110 days), but yellow and white when young. You can also eat this as a semi sweet corn if picked early. Should be prepared quickly after harvest, or else the flavor diminishes quickly.
These seeds are rare, but you can find them at Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds (rareseeds.com) at 75 seeds for $4.00.
There are a lot of different varieties of corn available to the small gardener or farmsteader today. Make sure you choose to order your seed from a reputable company. The companies that I’ve listed here have been in business for many years and have great reviews for their quality and customer service. Also, make sure you talk to your local extension office or agronomist about what varieties would do best in your climate. And whatever you do, don’t be afraid to experiment and have fun.
Happy seed hunting!