Baby Corn

Baby Corn

PNW532
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Carol Miles, Professor and Vegetable Extension Specialist, Department of Horticulture, WSU Mount Vernon Northwestern Washington Research and Extension Center, Mount Vernon, WA, Catherine Daniels, Associate Professor and Extension Specialist, Department of Entomology, WSU Puyallup, Puyallup, WA,                Leslie Zenz, former field research assistant in the Vegetable Horticulture Program with Dr. Miles, Jacky King, Technical Assistant, Vegetable Horticulture Program, WSU Mount Vernon Northwestern Washington Research and Extension Center, Mount Vernon, WA.
With a crisp texture and a subtle, slightly sweet corn flavor, this delicious veggie is surprisingly easy to cultivate — learn how here.
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About Baby Corn

Fresh baby corn is eaten in its entirety and has a crisp texture and a subtle, slightly sweet corn flavor. Although almost all the baby corn found in the United States is imported from Asia in pickled or canned form, fresh baby corn is easy to grow in the Pacific Northwest. Baby corn is no longer a delicacy or specialty food reserved for salad bars and Asian restaurants; it is a delicious locally produced treat to eat raw or cooked in many recipes.

Baby corn’s miniature size makes consumers think that it grows from “baby” corn plants, but the tiny ears of baby corn are simply immature ears from regular-sized corn plants (Figure 1). Specialty cultivars are available for baby corn production, but baby corn can also be harvested from most common corn cultivars. The purpose of this publication is to describe how to select a cultivar and grow baby corn. Marketing baby corn is also discussed.

Figure 1. Baby corn plants are regular-sized plants (left), where the ear is harvested at an immature stage, generally within 3 days of silk emergence (right). (Photo by Carol Miles)

Growing Baby Corn

There are two different methods for producing baby corn. In the first method, baby corn is the primary crop, and a cultivar is selected and planted to produce only baby corn. In the second method, baby corn is the secondary crop, the primary being either sweet corn or field corn. In this latter case, the top ear is allowed to fully mature as sweet or field corn, and one or two lower ears are harvested for baby corn (Galinat 1985; Wang et al. 2010).

The decision whether to grow baby corn either as a primary or as a secondary crop will influence cultivar choice, planting density, and fertilizer rates.

Selecting a Cultivar

There are specialty cultivars of corn, such as Baby Corn, that have been developed specifically for baby corn production. Many other sweet corn (su, se, sh2) and field corn (Su) cultivars may also be suitable for baby corn production. Plants of baby corn cultivars tend to produce more ears per plant than other corn cultivars. However, many common corn cultivars will also produce quality baby corn. Table 1 lists several cultivars that produced marketable baby corn in field trials in southwest Washington. These cultivars can be grown to produce baby corn as either a primary or a secondary crop.

Table 1. Corn cultivars that produced marketable, fresh baby corn, and the number of days from planting to first harvest, in southwestern Washington (Miles et al. 1999).

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Copyright Washington State University

Published March, 2018

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