These bite-sized delicacies have long been a popular fresh vegetable in Asia, but now, gourmets from all over the world are demanding their presence. Mini-corn can be eaten raw in salads, lightly steamed for tender whole cobs or sliced length ways and added to stir-fries. In Thai cookbooks, they are often referred to as candle corn. They freeze well for winter stir-fries, and are excellent when pickled.
'F1 Minipop' is a sweet and tasty variety which has been bred especially to give a corn with a very tender pericarp (the edible tissue) the cobs are so tender they can be eaten raw. Very easy from seed it thrives in most cultivated soils and unlike regular sized sweet corn, it is best grown at high density and does not require pollination to produce cobs. 'Minipop F1' is a normal sugar type which will produce 5 to 6 cobs per plant and crop in just 12 to 17 weeks. Harvest when only 10cm (4in) in length for succulent, tender mini sweet corn. It can also be grown in large containers.
Sweet corn is shallow rooted: protection from winds and water loss in the soil is very important. They grow tall: 75 to 170cm (30 to 65in), so take care not to shade other vegetables. Each plant has an average spread of 45cm (18in).
Prepare the site:
Sweet corn likes free-draining, moisture retentive soil. Remove weeds and dig over the site with a spade, removing any large stones. Level roughly and then work over the area with a rake to leave a fine finish.
Two or three weeks before planting or sowing, spread some general fertiliser granules over the planting area and gently rake in to the surface. Corn is a heavy feeder, requiring rich soil. Nitrogen is especially important, since corn is basically a grass. An inch or two of compost or rotted manure will also work, as will feeding with fish emulsion.
Cover the soil you are going to grow your crop in with black polythene or similar a few weeks before planting out as this will absorb heat and warm up the soil. You can also plant through a polythene mulch or similar as this will continue to retain heat along with moisture - and suppress weeds.
Sweet corn seed does not germinate below 10°C (50°F) Start off indoors from late March or sow directly from May. It must have a long warm season to perform well. This means around 70 to 110 frost free days after planting at around 16-35°C (61-95°F).
Sowing Indoors: Sow indoors from late March to May
Start the plants off indoors in cells or pots filled with moist compost. (Alternatively grow in tubs, plant 4 plants per 45cm/18" tub) The compost should be moist, but definitely not wet. Wet compost will be cold and reduces the oxygen that the seeds need to germinate.
Sow two seeds to each pot 0.5in (1.5cm) deep in pots of seed compost. Keep warm and moist. Thin to leave the strongest seedling when they are 2cm (1”) tall. Plants can go into the soil from May. Using a trowel, set sweet corn plants 25-30cm (10-12”) with 45cm (18”) between rows. As you pick the immature cobs before they are fertilised there is no need to worry about traditional block planting.
Sowing Direct: Sow outdoors from May to early July
If temperatures are still low, continue to grow on under protection, but pot plants on to prevent them becoming root bound. Plant seeds directly once the soil is over 15°C (59°F). Use a dibber to make 2.5cm (1in) holes and sow two or three seeds every 25 to 30cm (10 to 12in) with 60cm (24in) between rows. Cover and water. Thin to leave the strongest seedling when they are 2.5cm (1in) tall.
In cooler climates it is worth protecting the emerging seedlings with fleece.
Protect the young plants with cloches, wind breaks or similar if the weather is cold. Hoe shallowly when weeding to avoid root disturbance and in exposed areas earth up the stems to 13cm (5in) to increase stability.
Although sweet corn can tolerate high temperatures and drought, Water regularly, especially if you notice the leaves curling and when the cobs begin to grow. Apply nitrogen fertilizer once the plants are about 20cm (8in) tall.
Mini-corn generally matures very quickly, so the harvest of baby corn must be timed carefully to avoid ending up with more mature corn ears. They should be picked as soon as the corn silks emerge from the ear tips, before the grains begin to swell and before they are fertilised and the tassels darken. Try to pick and eat the same day as this will give the best flavour and sweetness.
In the US they used to "liven up" the corn seed catalogues with “amusing” cartoons and anecdotes, this is why we use the word "corny" to describe bad jokes.
- Additional Information
Packet Size 7 grams Average Seed Count 50 Seeds Common Name Miniature corn, mini-corn, baby corn, candle corn Other Common Names Baby Vegetable Other Language Names FR: maïs doux Family Poaceae Genus Zea Species mays var. rugosa Cultivar Minipop F1 Synonym Zea mays var. rugosa, Maize Hardiness Hardy Annual