Thursday, 10 September 2015

"Best Looking Corn in Essex County!"

I say this out loud to myself every time I drive by the fields my son-in-law planted. This is a very prejudiced thing to say as I know nothing about corn but I do love the young man who planted it.  I know he planted it with great excitement and trepidation and faith and prayer. And he visits his corn often to have a chat with it and see how it's coming along.

This is his passion.  
So I ask him about it.

A good crop is measured by the number of rows on a cob and how far to the tip the kernels grow.  This one has 16 rows and covers almost all the cob.  These results are determined by the quality of the soil and the fertilizer it's able to take up, the amount of rain and sun, and pest infestations. Corn removes a lot of the nutrients from the soil so it is only planted in the same fields every two years.

He tells me that farmers call the dimples in the kernels dents. And funny enough, it is officially called Dent Corn (Zea mays indenata). Around here we only make two distinctions; it's either sweet corn that we steam and eat in great quantities while the season is on, or field corn that is used for everything else. Dent corn is used for livestock feed, in industrial products, or to make processed foods. These dents signify that the corn is drying out. In order to harvest, they want 15% or less moisture in the corn so they can sell it right away.  If there is too much moisture the corn must be put in the dryer before stored in an elevator or it will rot.

 When it is this dry the kernels are spongy in the cob, like rows of loose teeth.

 An attentive farmer, like my son-in-law, will often check his crop and pick out one kernel to check for the telling black layer. The corn needs this layer as it is an indication of its starch content and must be at this stage before the first frost. When the time is right the harvester will cut the stalk, the thrasher will remove each kernel, and a conveyer will move them up to be put in a wagon. Then off to market it will go.

You may have remembered my mouse issue. I recently relented and bought the non-catch-and-release type and one mouse was removed from my house. One mouse, I am told, means many more. My gift of Dent Corn was placed on my counter with the bet that a mouse would eat the corn before entering the trap.  Neither of us won. I think my mouse problem has ended. Smart mice.


  1. Miss T. just read about Zea Mays in Omnivore's Dilemma this week. So the post is timely. She finds corn biology much more interesting than she thought she would.

  2. How perfect that your son--in-law is a farmer!