Saturday, October 6

How sweet it is to ...

How sweet it is to actually crop some sweetcorn.

There were times when we thought this moment wouldn't come.

Sweetcorn is wind pollinated so you wouldn't expect pollination to be a problem on our allotment site. The lean to some of the trees and the way tall plants are battered bears testament to the fact that our site can be extremely windswept.
As an added measure I kept brushing my hand through the plants and watched the pollen from the male flowers rain down on the female flowers. I was pretty sure that if all that had to happen was that male pollen must meet female stigma - bingo swelling sweetcorn would result.

The plants looked healthy enough even after being subjected to a battering by the previously mentioned winds and cobs were developing.

So you can imagine our disappointment when we peeled back the sheaves from the cobs to reveal wizened, unpollinated kernels. We thought here was a second cornless year. Then people started to comment on their blogs that they had picked cobs which weren't pollinated to the very end but that they still had managed some sort of a crop. So with a bit more hope I decided to strip our plants. I ended up with a box full of cobs but would they bear fruit?
They did but as reported by others most of the kernels at the tip of the cobs were unpollinated.
I did a little research and found that poor pollination can result when pollen is falling during heavy rain or hot, dry weather. Not prizes for guessing which is the most likely cause this year.

Well the cobs may not look as pretty as usual but we still have a few bags of kernels for the freezer and that which we have already eaten was just as sweet so it's not all bad news!


12 comments:

  1. We have the opposite problem here not enough rain.

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    1. I think we must have been getting everyone else's rain Cathy. Around your area and across the Atlantic people have been wanting more rain and we would have happily sent some either way!

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  2. I always freeze my on the cob Sue...I love to eat it this way. How do you strip it down though as it would be good to do this with a few for the freezer in the future.

    I stripped my plants today...i got less corn than you but you can de rest assured we will be enjoying every bit of it!!

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    1. We just haven't room in our freezers to store it that way Tanya. You just get someone (Martyn) to run a knife - more a sawing action - down the cob (held over a bowl or colander) from the tip end downwards hoping that most of the kernels fall into the container.

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  3. Compared with my dismal result, I think that is a fantastic crop! When you are planning to strip the kernels from the cobs it's not so important to have perfect kernels right down to the tips. If I ever grow sweet corn again I'll grow MORE to improve the chances of pollination.

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    1. It was better than we expected, Mark. One thing that I did wonder about the three sisters idea is - would the beans cut down the wind action - sort of staking the corn and also cover the female flower so pollen didn't reach her as well.

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  4. Those looks great Sue. I've only tried one of our cobs and it hadn't been pollinated. I'm thinking the rest may not have either. Ho hum; I stripped the not-properly-formed kernels from the cobs, they were still edible enough.

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    1. It's just been one of those years, Lee. last year the corn plants didn't grow at all as it was too dry.

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  5. Well I am glad I read this entry as I just today planted corn, 2 varieties right next to each other. Not sure but I do think we might be in for a hot dry (and no doubt humid) summer. So I shall keep up the water and I shall be that mad girl running around encouraging extra pollen on mine and clients corn crops .

    At least yours came out looking nice

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    1. Hi dutd - Planting two varieties closely may result in cross pollination which in sweetcorn land can mean you don't get the best flavour. Hope it doesn't happen to yours. When the pollen is running if it is hot and dry try spraying with water.

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  6. A triumph of hope over bad weather!

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    1. I didn't even dare to hope that the corn would amount to much this year, Janet!

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