Everyday Gardeners

Plant. Grow. Live.

sweet corn

It’s finally happened. I succeeded in getting ripe tomatoes to add to summer salads before the spring-sown lettuce, spinach, and snap peas melted out in summer’s heat. (After two successive days with 100-degree F plus heat indices, that may soon change!)

The successful tomato variety? It’s ‘Lizzano’, an All-America Selections winner for this year. It certainly gets my vote as a keeper. Never mind that it’s “just” a cherry tomato. I don’t care about the size of the fruits as long as they’re flavorful and productive. So far, ‘Lizzano’ fits the bill. It’s certainly earliest of the 20 varieties of tomatoes that I’m growing this year. And unlike some cherry tomatoes, the plant is staying compact (less than 2 feet tall). It also reportedly has excellent disease resistance.

I’m especially celebrating the early harvest because not only has the tomato harvest coincided with the bounty of salad fixings, I have ripe peppers to add to the blend! ‘Sweet Heat’ pepper, from Ball Seed Company grows a compact 12 inches tall, and is bearing 1- to 2-inch long red fruits with a nice blend of sweetness and mild heat–somewhere between the flavor of a bell pepper and a hot pepper. Last year I grew it in a container with some herbs, but this year it’s growing in the ground. It has done well in both locations.

Local growers tell us that because of cool spring weather we won’t have ripe Iowa sweet corn this July 4th, but I can gloat a little and say that I have ripe peppers and tomatoes to enjoy. Summer has arrived!

My dear friend Sandy Soria lives in the best of two worlds. She and her husband and two sons spend most weeks in a contemporary townhouse in the western suburbs of Des Moines. But on weekends and as soon as school breaks for summer vacation, the Sorias return to their picture-perfect century farm about 30 miles outside of town surrounded by Iowa’s famous cornfields. Think Grant Wood. After meeting my old friend and amateur-corn-grower (and unofficial champion corn-on-the-cob eater) Steve Perkins during a visit to the Midwest from his Chesapeake Bay home in Virginia, Sandy was convinced she should try her hand at growing a patch of sweet corn. And I’m sure glad she did.


Here we are in an outtake by photographer Marty Baldwin taken last summer while harvesting just some of the delicious corn she grew in a 10-foot by 10-foot space at her farm. Look for the story on Sandy and her corn patch in the Fall 2010 issue of Country Gardens, which goes on sale in early August. Speaking of sweet corn, I’m excited to try growing a new variety from Harris Seeds (www.harrisseeds.com) called ‘Mr. Mini Mirai’. The name Mirai means “taste of the future” in Japanese and the ears of this supposedly exceptionally sweet and tender gourmet corn are a refined 5” to 5 ½”, just the right size for a dinner plate. ‘Mr. Mini Mirai’ matures approximately 74 days from planting. Tell us about the sweet corn you’ve got growing out in your backyard and how you enjoy sharing it with others.

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