Ever wonder where the baby corn of Asian stir-fries and pickled relishes comes from, or if you can grow it yourself? We did, and the answer will surprise you.
It's tempting to assume that baby corn comes from a dwarf plant. Not so. It comes from some of the very corn varieties that produce full-sized ears and grows exactly the same way, but it is harvested earlier. Best of all, with a little planning, you can harvest baby corn and full-sized sweet corn ears from the same plant.
The first step is choosing the right varieties. Washington State University Cooperative Extension has tested 10 varieties for suitability as baby corn. Researchers found that the ones most productive and easiest to harvest as baby corn produced multiple ears, formed ears higher on the stalk, and were late-producing varieties, such as 'Baby Corn' and 'Jubilee'. However, any sweet corn variety will work following these steps.
To harvest only baby corn, plant seeds closer than normal, 2 to 4 inches apart in rows 12 inches apart. Harvest the ears two to four days after the silks appear. To harvest both baby corn and full-sized corn from the same stalk, plant as you normally would, then harvest the lower ear as baby corn and let the top ear grow to maturity, usually a month later. If the plant produces more than two ears per stalk, you can harvest all of the lower ears for baby corn without affecting the quality of the top ear.
Once harvested, baby corn will remain fresh for about five days if refrigerated in the husk. Baby corn freezes well, can be pickled or canned, or added fresh to stir-fry dishes.