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Gardening Articles: Edibles :: Vegetables

Corn History and How it Grows (page 3 of 3)

by National Gardening Association Editors

Kernel Flavor

The next stages of corn's growth determine the flavor and texture of the kernel. Here you have a great deal of control, because it's often just the timing of the harvest that counts.

Newly formed corn kernels are full of liquid or "milk." The milk stage doesn't last long in most varieties, because the plant's natural goal is to convert that sweet liquid into starch. (If the seed were allowed to continue its life cycle, the starch would be stored and used later as food to sustain the new plant.)

However, the milk stage is the peak harvesttime for sweet corn, and gardeners who can successfully judge their corn's growing progress are well rewarded.

If corn isn't harvested during the milk stage, the starch-making process goes ahead, and the inside of each corn kernel becomes more solid, losing its sweet taste. This is called the "dough" stage.

The final stage of kernel development occurs if you don't harvest the stalks or if you dry them for winter storage. Sweet corn seeds become wrinkled and transparent as the natural starches eventually lose their water content.

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