By Angie, Jun 22 2013 11:17AM
One crop which all the family adore is sweetcorn. I have mixed luck with my sweetcorn. I like the variety, Swift, but last year the germination rate for my sweetcorn was really low. Previously, I had always been able to germinate the seed quickly in seed compost in a propagator.
However, I ended up having to chit the sweetcorn seed first. Simply place the sweetcorn into a dampened piece of kitchen roll and leave in a warm place, checking regularly that the kitchen roll doesn't dry out and whip out the seed as soon as a little chit is spotted and pop the seed into seed compost.
I tend to use root trainers or toilet rolls for starting my sweetcorn.
I initially keep them under cover in a warm, light place and then plant them out in blocks once the frosts have passed. Planting in blocks helps the pollination as the tassels at the top of the plant drop the pollen onto the silks. I give the plants a shake regularly as I pass them to encourage this. Insufficient pollination will result in poor cob formation - where kernels fail to develop into the plump, tasty kernels you expect.
Some people advocate a companion planting process called "The Three Sisters". This process involves planting sweetcorn, climbing beans and squashes into the same bed. However, I personally don't think this process works in a colder climate such as ours as the sweetcorn doesn't grow much faster than the beans so can become swamped easily. I therefore usually just add a courgette or trailing summer squash to the edges of the beds, to grow around the edges of the plants and offer the sweetcorn roots some shade and keep weeds down.
We have problems at our site with badgers attacking the ripe cobs. They smell the cobs when they are ripe and can't resist the sugar! We discovered this a couple of years ago, when we arrived to find sweetcorn plants pulled down to ground level and cobs chewed through and strewn across the plot!
We now build a barracade around our plants once they get 2 foot or so high so we get a chance to taste the cobs before the badgers do!
Wait until the silks go brown and then twist off the cob, eating as soon as you can as the longer you store them, the more the sugar turns to starch.
Our favourite way of eating the cobs is just to drop them into boiling water for a few minutes and serve them hot and slathered in butter! Yum!
However, I also add the kernels to vegetable pakoras which is one of my favourite recipes for using up vegetables:
250g gram flour (chickpea flour)
50g self-raising flour
½ tsp red chilli powder
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp toasted cumin seeds
1 tsp toasted coriander seeds
1 tbsp lemon juice
150g potatoes, peeled and cut into small pieces
150g onions, finely chopped
150g cauliflower, cut into tiny florets
150g sweetcorn kernels
3 spring onions, trimmed, finely chopped
a handful fresh coriander leaves
1 tsp chopped green chilli
1 tsp salt
sunflower oil, for deep frying
Sift the gram flour and the self-raising flour into a bowl. Add the spices, and stir well to combine.
Add the lemon juice, then gradually add enough water to form a smooth batter that is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Set aside for 10-15 minutes.
Add all of the remaining ingredients except the sunflower oil to the batter mixture and mix well to coat the vegetables.
Heat the oil in a deep heavy-based frying pan until a breadcrumb sizzles and turns brown when dropped into it.
When the oil is hot, carefully lower tablespoons of the batter mixture in batches into the oil and fry for 5-6 minutes, or until the pakoras are crisp and golden-brown and the vegetables have cooked through.
Serve immediately or allow to cool, freeze and then cook in the oven for 20 minutes in a preheated oven to 180 degrees until warmed through. Serve with mango chutney.