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Sweetcorn

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One of the most special treats from the allotment - cut fresh sweetcorn, get it home and into a pan of boiling water for 5 minutes. A dab of butter, a grind of black pepper.
The tighter your timing, the better the organisation, the more remarkable the flavour. It's the only time I take a mobile phone to the allotment, to arrange for a pan ready boiling on the stove for our arrival!
How to
* Choose a bed in full sun, but sheltered from the wind - preferably one dug and manured the previous autumn. Corn is more fussy about position than soil type.
* Choose your variety - the further north you are, the more early-maturing the variety you will need. Britain is at the northern edge of an acceptable climate for viable sweetcorn.
* In Yorkshire, I sow some seed in toilet roll tubes, inside, in late April or early May. Fill the tubes with compost; plant two seeds in each, and thin out the weaker of the two plants.
* In early June, harden off the seedlings, and plant the complete tubes in the bed - the cardboard tube will rot away, and you will have avoided disturbing the roots of the seedlings.
* Corn should be planted in blocks (not rows), to ensure pollination. The books say plant them about 18 inches apart, but the people with the best crop on our site had their plants only 12 inches apart.
* Water in dry weather - especially important when the plants are flowering. A liquid feed when the cobs start to swell is recommended.
* As you walk around the bed, tap the male flowers at the top of the stem, when they are fully developed in late June/early July, to encourage pollination of the female flowers lower down.
* When the tassels at the end of the cobs turn dark brown, test a couple of cobs for readiness - peel back the sheath carefully and squeeze a couple of the grains; if you get a milky liquid, they're ripe, while a watery liquid means they're unripe and a doughy liquid means you've waited a bit too long.
* Twist and pull the ripe cob gently from the stalk - and cook quickly. The nearer you can get to eating the cob 10 minutes after picking, the better they will taste!


 

 

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