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Zea mays


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Key information

Plant type



Half hardy

Skill level


Zea mays

Plant details

Believed to have been first cultivated in Mexico, sweet corn was introduced into Europe in the 16th century and soon became a staple crop. Sweet corn cobs are traditionally harvested with the water already on the boil to cook them. Freshness is paramount as the sugar in the juicy kernels turns starchy minutes after harvest. There are many varieties, ripening early, mid-season or late, and are therefore suited to different parts of the UK. Plants are best grown in a block (at least four rows wide) rather than in rows, to ensure full wind-pollination. They need full sun, in moist but well-drained, fertile, preferably acid or neutral soils. Tassels at the ends of cobs turn black as an indication of ripeness.

Family: Poaceae

Genus: Zea

Species: mays

Plant type: Vegetable

Foliage colour: Mid-green

Sun exposure: Full sun

Soil: Well-drained/light

Hardiness: Half hardy

Skill level: Experienced

Height: 150cm

Spread: 60cm

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