Sweet Corn Cultivation and its Health Benefits


Sweet corn (Zea mays convar) is a variety of maize with a high sugar content.  Sweet corn is a favorite among home vegetable gardeners. Improved hybrid cultivars are easy to grow. They yield well, taste sweeter, and store longer than old time cultivars. Sweet corn is best adapted to larger gardens since only one or two ears are produced per plant and several rows are recommended to ensure adequate pollination. However, even small plantings can be successful if planted in blocks rather than rows.
Preparation of Soil
Sweet corn thrives best in deep, naturally rich, easily worked soil. However, any well-drained soil is suitable. Sandy soils are best for early crops since sandy soils warm up faster in the spring than heavy soils. Sweet corn will adapt to a wide range of soil pH. However, optimum growth is obtained at pH 6.0 to 6.5.
Prepare the soil about 6 inches deep, using either a spade, plow, or rototiller. Break up the clods to insure good contact between the soil and the seed, then rake the soil to level the surface. Corn is packed with antioxidant compounds, vitamins and minerals that play an important role in good health.
Irrigation
Sweet corn crop vigor and market quality are impacted by soil moisture availability. Ohio generally receives enough rainfall to produce abundant, high quality sweet corn crops. However, the total amount of rainfall in a season may be less important to crop yield and quality than the timing of rainfall. Sweet corn quality may be reduced by temporary water shortages, especially if they occur during kernel fill. Inadequate tip fill or poorly developed kernels and ears may result from low soil moisture levels during later stages of crop development. High nighttime temperatures worsen the effects of low soil moisture availability. Therefore, maintaining an adequate level of soil moisture during critical periods of crop development is important to ensuring high sweet corn crop quality in many seasons. Irrigation is one way to protect against the damaging effects of low rainfall.
Harvesting
It is very important to harvest sweet corn at the proper stage of maturity. The optimal harvest date is determined by the variety’s response to the environment and may differ from the reported maturity by up to seven days in some seasons. Therefore, it is important to monitor crop development regularly, especially after tassels and silks emerge. Sweet corn kernel sugar levels may be highest approximately twenty one days after silks emerge. The critical time is the milk stage, a stage when the juice in the kernel appears milky when you puncture the kernel with your thumbnail. Sweet corn remains in the milk stage for a relatively short period, so check the ears frequently. Corn that is too young will ooze a watery material, while ears that are too old will have a tough, doughy kernel. During the milk stage, the unhusked ear should feel firm, have full kernels at the tip of the ear, and have brown, dry silks. Generally, ears should be ready about three weeks from silking time.
When harvesting, break the shank (stem of the ear) close to the ear without breaking the main stock or tearing the shank from the stalk. Grasp the ear near the base and bend it down sharply, or bend it to one side with a rotary motion of the wrist. At first it may be best to hold the shank with one hand and the ear with the other.
After picking, use the sweet corn immediately for fresh eating, canning, or freezing. At high temperatures, the sugar in sweet corn is quickly converted to starch, giving it a bland taste. Although many new cultivars have extended storage quality, most older cultivars will lose 50% of their flavor within 12 hours of picking if left unrefrigerated. If sweet corn must be stored before use, keep the temperature as close to 32°F as possible. The eating quality of corn declines rapidly after harvest. The loss of sugar is more rapid at higher temperatures. At 90°F, the rate of sugar loss is 20 times greater than the rate at 32°F. It is important to cool or hydro-cool corn as soon as possible after harvest.
Macronutrients:

    Water: 68.36 g
    Calories: 77
    Protein: 2.90 g
    Carbohydrates: 17.12 g
    Fiber: 2.4 g
    Sugars: 2.90 g
    Total Fat: 1.06 g
    Saturated Fat: 0.164 g
    Monounsaturated Fat: 0.312 g
    Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.503 g
    Cholesterol: 0 mg

Micronutrients:

    Calcium: 2 mg
    Iron: 0.47 mg
    Magnesium: 33 mg
    Phosphorus: 80 mg
    Potassium: 243 mg
    Sodium: 14 mg
    Zinc: 0.41 mg
    Vitamin C: 6.1 mg
    Thiamin: 0.180 mg
    Riboflavin: 0.054 mg
    Niacin: 1.530 mg
    Pantothenic Acid: 0.684 mg
    Vitamin B6: 0.050 mg
    Vitamin B12: 0 mcg
    Folate: 41 mcg
    Vitamin A: 187 IU
    Vitamin E: 0.06 mg
    Vitamin K: 0.3 mcg

Phytonutrients:

    beta Carotene: 47 mcg
    beta Cryptoxanthin: 114 mcg
    Lycopene: 0 mcg
    Lutein and Zeaxanthin: 688 mcg
Health benefits of sweet corn
Cooked sweet corn has significant antioxidant activity, which has been suggested to reduce the chance of heart disease and cancer. Sweet corn promotes heart health as it contains folate, which is also called vitamin B9. Consumption of folate reduces the risk of peripheral vascular disease, strokes and heart attacks.
 According to research published in the American Institute for Cancer Research, sweet corn contains phytochemical compounds that contain lots of antioxidants. Beneficial phytochemical component to help the fiber lowers risk of cancer, especially lung cancer. This is because sweet corn contains a chemical called beta cryptoxanthin, which reduces the risk of contracting lung cancer
Sweet corn is a source of thiamin (vitamin B1) that are very important for healthy brain cells and cognitive function because of thiamin is needed to form acetylcholine which serves to maximize communication between brain cells in the process of thinking and concentration if the levels of these substances decreases, it will cause dementia and Alzheimer's disease. In addition, sweet corn contains pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), which role in the the metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins and fats to be converted into energy.
In addition health benefits of sweet corn is Sweet corn is rich in beta carotene, folate and the antioxidant zeaxanthin. All these nutrients protect against eye ailments like macular degeneration.
Reference:
Growing Sweet Corn by B. Rosie Lerner and Michael N. Dana. Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service • West Lafayette, IN