This summer, in our personal garden, we grew a bit of delicious sweet corn. We also planted an entire field of corn for our challenging corn maze. And included in our outdoor sales area is a selection of beautiful ornamental corn for your fall-themed yard displays. We are known for our pumpkins, but we have a lot of corn standing on the farm too. Have you ever wondered how those sweet little kernels come to be?
The growth of the corn plant is also a pretty incredible process. It starts by planting a seed in the ground. The seed is one kernel from a previous corn plant (which came first, the seed or the plant?). As the springtime temperature warms up, it warms the moist soil to above 55 degrees. The little seed then germinates and sends a sprout above ground to look for sunlight.
As the sprout gathers sunlight, a root shoots down into the soil to soak up water and nutrients. That little sprout that looks like blades of grass quickly shoots up into a thick stalk with the long pointed leaves. Sweet corn stalks are usually a few feet tall and some varieties (depending on the climate) can grow up to 15 feet.
Before they get too tall, this is the time we go through with the mower and cut the pattern for our corn maze.
About mid-July, a golden tassel develops at the top of the stalk. The tassel is basically the male flower. The ear of corn is the female portion of the plant with its flowers being the silk that sticks out the end. Each strand of silk corresponds to an individual kernel of corn on the ear. As the wind blows over the corn field, the pollen from the tassels drops onto the silk. From the time the silk appears, the corn has about a week to be pollinated or the plant will produce nothing. Each silk strand must be pollinated to fill the entire ear of corn with kernels. The pollen drops onto the silk and slides down into the ear where a new kernel is made.
A few weeks from pollination the first ears are ready to harvest. And it just wouldn’t be summer without some tasty sweet corn.