Corn is an all-American favorite. It would be difficult to image a summer barbecue without corn on the cob, or a movie without popcorn. Corn is also rich in nutrients, and a versatile ingredient in many vegetable recipes. In this article, we'll talk about growing corn, selecting and serving corn, and the health benefits of corn.

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ears of corn
The kernels of sweet corn can be yellow, white, black, red, or a combination.
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About Corn

Corn, a tender annual that can grow 4 to 12 feet tall, is a member of the grass family. It produces one to three ears on a stalk. The kernels of sweet corn can be yellow, white, black, red, or a combination of colors. Corn is not the easiest crop to grow in a home vegetable garden, and it doesn't give a lot of return for the space it occupies.

Common Name: Corn
Scientific Name: Zea mays
Hardiness: Tender (will die at first frost)

In the next section, we'll show you how to grow corn.

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Growing Corn

Growing corn can present a challenge for the home vegetable gardener, as it demands attention and it doesn't provide a lot of return for the space it occupies.

Corn can be grown in any region, but the time it will take to mature depends on the amount of heat it gets. Corn doesn't really hit its stride until the weather warms up. Depending on the varieties planted, two crops may be possible. Corn likes well-worked, fertile soil with good drainage, and it must have full sun. Sow the seeds directly in the garden on the average date of last frost. Plant the seeds 2 to 4 inches apart in short rows forming a block rather than a single, long row. Planting in clumps ensures pollination. For a continuous supply, plant early, mid-season, and late varieties at the same time.

ear of corn with husk
Corn can be grown in any region.

When the corn is about 6 inches tall, thin short varieties to two feet apart and tall varieties to three feet apart. Although corn can be grown closer together than this, the roots are then more crowded and more watering and feeding are needed. Corn is a heavy user of nitrogen. Fertilize in the spring, again when the corn is 8 inches tall, and again when the plants are 18 inches tall. Side-dress between the rows, using one-third of a pound of complete, well-balanced fertilizer on each side of a 10-foot-long row. Hill soil around the plant roots at this time to help support the stalks.

Watering is very important. Keep the soil evenly moist. Corn often grows so fast in hot weather that the leaves wilt because the roots can't keep the leaves supplied with moisture. Although corn requires much water, avoid getting water on the tassels. The pollen from the tassels must fall onto the corn silk to produce kernels, and if pollination does not occur, all that will grow is the cob. Weed early and keep the weeds cut back. Remember that corn has shallow roots, and a vigorous attack on the weeds may destroy the crop.

Harvesting Corn

From planting to harvest takes 55 to 95 days, depending on the variety and, to some extent, the weather. Harvest your corn when the kernels are soft and plump and the juice is milky.

Types of Corn

A large number of varieties of corn are available to home gardeners. Just a few of the good varieties available are listed below.
  • Early Sunglow, harvest at 63 days, is an early yellow variety that is good for short seasons.
  • Butter & Sugar, harvest at 78 days, produces white and yellow kernels.
  • Illini Xtra-Sweet, harvest at 85 days, has yellow kernels and is good for freezing.
  • Silver Queen, harvest at 92 days, is a very popular white-kernel, sweet, large-ear variety.
  • Sweet Temptation, harvest at 72 days, is a delicious bicolor.
In the next section, we'll talk about selecting and preparing corn.

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Selecting Corn

End-of-summer corn is by far the best ear in town. Although you can find good-tasting corn year-round, many out-of-season ears aren't worth eating.

ear of corn
Corn kernels should be plump and tightly packed on the cob.

When buying fresh corn, be sure it was delivered in cold storage -- as temperatures rise, the natural sugar in corn turns to starch, and the corn loses some sweetness. Corn is best eaten within a day or two of picking. Corn husks should be green and have visible kernels that are plump and tightly packed on the cob. To test freshness, pop a kernel with your fingernail. The liquid that spurts out should be milky colored. If not, the corn is either immature or overripe. Once home, refrigerate corn immediately.

Tips for Preparing and Serving Corn

Boiling is the traditional method for preparing corn-on-the-cob, though grilling, steaming, and even microwaving will get the job done.

A couple of notes about boiling: Adding salt to the water toughens corn; adding sugar isn't necessary; overcooking toughens kernels. Cook for the shortest amount of time possible -- about 5 minutes.

Keep reading to learn about the many health benefits of corn.

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Health Benefits of Corn

Corn, one of the most popular and versatile vegetables, is also a good source of several nutrients. Corn is a low-fat complex carbohydrate that deserves a regular place on any healthy table. These high-fiber, fat-fighting kernels of goodness are also hearty and satisfying.

ears of corn
Corn is a source of several vitamins.

Health Benefits of Corn

This popular food is high in fiber. In fact, it's notoriously hard to digest. But its insoluble fiber is tops at tackling common digestive ailments (like constipation and
hemorrhoids) by absorbing water, which swells the stool and speeds its movement.

Corn is a surprising source of several vitamins, including folic acid, niacin, and vitamin C. The folic acid in corn is now known to be an important factor in preventing neural-tube birth defects. It's just as important in preventing heart disease, according to studies that show folic acid can prevent a buildup of homocysteine, an amino acid, in the body. Long-term elevation of homocysteine has been linked to higher rates of heart disease; folic acid helps break it down.

Nutritional Values of Fresh and Cooked Corn, Yellow or White
Serving Size: 1 medium (7") ear
Calories 77
Fat 1 g
Saturated Fat <1 g
Cholesterol 0 mg
Carbohydrate 19 g
Protein 3 g
Dietary Fiber
3 g
Sodium 13 mg
Vitamin C 5 mg
Folic Acid 41 micrograms
Niacin 2 mg
Potassium 243 mg

Want more information about corn? Try:
  • Vegetable Recipes: Find delicious recipes that feature corn.
  • Nutrition: Find out how corn fits in with your overall nutrition plans.
  • Vegetable Gardens: Grow a full harvest of great vegetables this year.
  • Gardening: We answer your questions about all things that come from the garden.
This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.