Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Chires Baby Corn

I really like baby corn, either in stir-fries, or pickled. It's extremely hard to find though, so I thought I would try growing some this year. The general concensus is that Chires Baby is the variety to grow for this purpose. It was brought from Asia by Jere Gettle of Baker Creek Seeds a few years back, and has become quite popular since then.

Baker Creek (and everyone else who sells it) claims it makes up to 20 ears per plant, with the plants producing multiple stalks. I did not experience that. One or two sent up two stalks, and each stalk produced about 6 cobs of corn. Still, this is much better than just about every other corn out there, which by and large produce 2 cobs at most. I also forgot that the seed catalogues say to start picking it as soon as it tassels so it will produce more; I harvested mine all at once.

It's supposed to be ready in 75 to 85 days. I'd say that's right; mine was a little closer to the later of those dates, but I could have started - and probably should have started - picking it earlier. Like all corn, it should not be planted until about June 1st, once the soil is warm. Corn is also what they call a "gross feeder" and will need lots of nitrogen-heavy fertilizer.

That's a shoe-box sized container in the picture above, and that's the complete harvest from a 5' by 6' planting of corn (about 30 plants). This stuff is a real luxury. Not only do you get very little for the amount of space required, but it then has to be hulled, and it's not a lot easier or faster to hull a baby corn cob than a full-sized one.

And there's the final, naked, harvest. I froze 2 packets and pickled the rest. Not what you would call a bumper harvest. I think I will likely try this again next year, and see if I do a bit better picking the cobs as they form. On the other hand, cleaning them is so much work that I wouldn't actually want to grow too much. They say that if the cobs are left to mature on the plant, it makes good popcorn. That would certainly be a lot less work, and probably a more respectable harvest for the space.

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