I gasped as I opened the seed packet. Jewel-like, smooth and translucent, ‘Bloody Butcher’ tumbled into my hands. I’ve grown sweetcorn almost every year since I was a kid, but I’d never seen anything like this.
Normally the sweetcorn seeds we grow in this country are wrinkly beige-yellow things that look a bit like old bits of skin. I’d been inspired by TV botanist James Wong’s new book to grow something a bit different this year. Like so many veg – sweetcorn actually comes in lots of different colours. We’ve got used to the idea of yellow, orange and red tomatoes – but few people realise sweetcorn comes in every colour from blue to red, purple, white and near black.
Most of the multicoloured ones are more for popcorn or making flour than eating fresh, but a select few, including ‘Bloody Butcher’ are suitable for eating fresh as sweetcorn. It’s one of the most common gardening clichés but homegrown sweetcorn really does knock the spots off shop bought. As soon as it’s picked the sugars start turning into starch, so the fresher you eat it, the better – barbecued on the allotment it’s one of the highlights of the year (lots of friends always seem to suddenly appear when it’s sweetcorn time!)
Sweetcorn can be sown indoors over the next fortnight or so, about a centimetre deep in small pots of compost. Otherwise it can be sown direct outside after mid-May, for a slightly later crop. Give it a sunny spot in good soil, and plant in blocks rather than rows (this helps it to pollinate itself and ensures a good crop). You’ll have the best barbecues ever come August. I can’t wait!