Late this summer, I discreetly grew a small grove of giant triffids on the allotment. Until about the end of July they blended seamlessly into their surroundings; innocent-looking and all nice and vegetably. However…
Suddenly, almost overnight, when the ordinary sweetcorn plants decided to do the sensible thing and settle down to make a couple of cobs each, my plants grew another three feet and then put out huge purple-stained cobs and tassels like Rio Carnival decorations, drawing lots of attention from fellow allotmenteers.
I’d decided to try a different sweetcorn – one rejoicing in the tasty-sounding name of ‘Bloody Butcher’. Well, the butcher was Bloody Massive! Right from the off I knew they were special – even the seeds are a world apart from what we call “normal” sweetcorn seeds in the UK.
The reason? Something that James Wong calls ‘The Great Sugar Trade-Off’ in his book, Grow for Flavour. Basically, our modern varieties of sweetcorn are mainly ‘supersweets’ – a mutant variation of maize – where the starch in the seed is replaced with sugar: supersweet seeds are shrunken (think of the difference between un-popped popcorn and the seeds you get in a seed packet of sweetcorn to grow in the garden), and as a result, the plants are less vigorous.
My strapping great butchers, an old-fashioned heirloom variety, topped out at about 8ft, and time has come to harvest. They look rather more like a burnt butcher than a bloody one – their warm coppery tones look just like the burnished cobs straight off a BBQ. And so to the kitchen…
Any un-formed cobs are delicious as baby sweetcorn
I’ll be honest – they don’t taste as quite as good as they look. The chickens liked them though! I don’t think mine were quite ripe, as they’re not as dark as those in the catalogue. Luckily though, as it’s quite a late variety, some of the cobs arestill really tiny, and absolutely delicious eaten as baby corn. If you sowed your sweetcorn a bit late you might have the same experience – these tiny cobs are exactly the same as baby corn – all the tastier for being fresh rather than a week old and flown in from Thailand.
So – the verdict. If you’re keen on tropical-looking planting and want a huge, easy-to-grow plant, then this is a great choice (my neighbour has already asked for some seeds for his school garden next year). If you want tasty sweetcorn – pick a supersweet – they’re delicious every time.