Understanding Sweetcorn

10339633_682433831851911_3810983810644209512_nWhen you open a seed catalog and flip to the corn section, it can get confusing.  There's bicolor corn, su, se, sh2, pop corn, dent corn, hybrid, and field corn. So, I'll attempt to explain this so you can make informed preparedness decisions on which type suits your needs.
Just as a baby in the womb has half the DNA from the mother carrying her and half the DNA from the father, each kernel of corn has half the DNA from the plant it is growing on and half from the plant that provided the pollen. The pollen comes from the tassel and is spread by the wind. It lands on the silks and fertilizes a seed. This makes it necessary to separate the different types of corn unless you want corn that is half sweet corn and half something else, like popcorn. The genes that make corn sweet are all recessive genes which means you must have two copies for the resulting corn to be sweet. See how wind blowing pollen from your neighbors purple ornamental corn could really screw up your sweetcorn crop? The genes that make corn sweet are sugary (su), sugar enhanced (se) and shrunken-2 (sh2). The su gene is "normal" sweetcorn that your grandparents raised. It produces more sugar than field corn which has the dominant Su1 starch gene. Remember that sweetcorn is harvested before maturity.  If allowed to sit too long, the sugars convert to starch in preparation to become a viable seed. So, this type of corn, su, must be harvested and go straight to the pot to be eaten or canned.  The se varieties also have the su gene and in conjunction,  produce a sweeter corn than is more tender. If both plants have this gene, then the cob will have 100% sweet kernels. Since the kernels start out sweet the additionally sugary goodness of the su genes keep it sweeter longer. Therefore, timing it isn't as critical with it's harvest and use.  The varieties that contain sh2 are supersweet.  This gene slows the conversion of the sugar to starch. Supersweet corn can stay sweet for about 3 weeks if kept near freezing. Selecting for these traits didn't come without pitfalls. Due to the smaler amount of starch in each kernel, it is harder to get started and requires a higher soil temperature for planting. To make matters worse, some supersweet varieties do not have the su gene but instead have the Su (starch) gene. So when pollinated by other supersweet or normal corn varieties,  you get starchy corn like field corn. So isolate them from sugar enhanced and normal corn. There are some other variants that don't fit into these categories.  Synergistic (sy) and augmented shrunken are two. Synergistic has multiple copies of genes and a brittle gene, to produce a super sweet corn that doesn't have the seed vigor problem you see with supersweet (sh2) varieties. Synergistic corn must be isolated from sh2.  Augmented shrunken has 2 copies of sh2 and se. It's super sweet and not as crunchy. It must be harvested by hand but that's what preppers will do anyway. It has the same seed vigor problem as sh2 corn. It needs to be isolated from all the other types. Keep in mind that sweetcorn is for eating fresh or canning.  I'll get into corn for grinding in a bit. Here are a few examples: Normal, open pollinated, non hybrid sweetcorn (su) Country Gentleman (white), Golden Bantam,  Golden Bantam Improved, Jubilee (yellow), Sugar Dots and Quickie (bicolor). se-Bodacious and Kandy Korn (my favorite yellow corn), Silver King  and Whiteout (white), Peaches & Cream and Sugarbaby (bicolor). sh2 - summer Sweet Yellow, Krispy King (yellow), Summer Sweet White, Aspen (white), Honey & Pearl, Phenomenal (bicolor) sy- Honeysweet(yel), Silver Dutchess(wht), Montauk(bi). Augmented- Extra Sweet,  yellow,  white, bicolor. Personally I'm fond of Kandy Korn. Every other year I'll plant some Golden Bantam just to keep seed for SHTF. Popcorn is self explanatory. Field corn is all corn that is not sweetcorn. There are two categories, dent and flint. Flint corn is hard (as flint) and is also known as Indian corn. It comes in many colors and can be made into hominy or popped. Dent corn dries with a dent in the round end. Their are open pollinated,  hybrid and genetically modified versions (microscopic gene manipulation in a laboratory as opposed to hand pollinating).  According to the USDA, the majority of hybrid yellow dent corn is used for livestock feed, oils, plastics, ethanol and other industrial production. The white hybrid dent corn is used for masa, torillas, chips, snacks and starch. For the prepper, there are several open pollinated cultivars that that are suitable for both livestock feed and fresh eating,  though not as sweet as what you are accustomed to. Some of those are: Truckers Favorite,  Goliath, Hickory King and others. Don't think you will be able to survive on field corn. Once dry, it's as hard as woodpecker lips and needs to be boiled in ashes to soften it up, sort like making hominy. You also aren't going to pick a few ears and grow some good eating corn with the seed. My suggestion is the approach I have taken. Live for today and plan for tomorrow. Grow whatever variety of sweetcorn you want now and can it. Grow another open pollinated non hybrid version every so often to get used to its growing characteristics and flavor, then save seed. AL

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Last modified onThursday, 20 April 2017 06:31

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