Thursday, August 02, 2007
Sweet Corn Wins the Poll
While my personal vote went to heirloom tomatoes, sweet corn won the poll for favorite farmers market item by a slim single vote among 15, thanks to all that participated. I felt the need at this point to look a little deeper at sweet corn, and I pulled this information from winkapedia.
Sweet corn is the result of a naturally-occurring recessive mutation in the genes which control conversion of sugar to starch inside the endosperm of the corn kernel. Unlike field corn varieties, which are harvested when the kernels are dry and fully mature, sweet corn is picked when immature and eaten as a vegetable, rather than a grain.
Sweet corn occurs as a spontaneous mutation in field corn and was grown by several Native American tribes. The Iroquois gave the first recorded sweet corn (called "Papoon") to European settlers in 1779.
All of the alleles responsible for sweet corn are recessive, so it must be isolated from any field corn varieties that release pollen at the same time; the endosperm develops from genes from both parents, and heterozygous kernels will be tough and starchy.
This means that sweet corn is rather rare in that less than a quarter of naturally occurring corn has the possibility to be sweet if picked properly. Even in a field of all sweet corn, only half of that would reproduce naturally to be sweet corn the next year.