the way out here

Ping-Pong corn

By HUNTER HILL
Posted 11/11/20

Towering nearly 15 feet tall, stretching out with long coarse leaves, stout and resilient to the wind, these vegetable giants cast shadows across much of the remainder of the garden. Surely, these …

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the way out here

Ping-Pong corn

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Towering nearly 15 feet tall, stretching out with long coarse leaves, stout and resilient to the wind, these vegetable giants cast shadows across much of the remainder of the garden. Surely, these plants are as kings to other crops as they reach to the heavens with such potential as to rival even my apple trees beside them. This was my pride and joy of the garden this year—or at least, it was supposed to be. Giant corn, or choclo as named in the Peruvian culture they originated from. These stalks have been noted as exceeding 25 feet tall and producing ears of corn with kernels the size of ping-pong balls. Mine were a mixture of yellow and purple varieties. Having spent time in Peru, I quickly fell in love with these novelty-like crops that remain an essential part of that country’s economy. One product I was lucky enough to sample was a chichi morada, which is a soda-like beverage made from the purple giant corn. Admittedly, it tasted a lot like bubble gum but the uses of this plant exceed this sweet beverage. Choclo con queso, or corn and cheese, is another roadside staple that is quite popular throughout the country; several times as I was feeling snackish between destinations, I would stop in order to sample the hot corn paired nicely with the smooth cheese.

With visions of hot corn and cheese as well as ping-pong ball sized corn with simple butter and salt on them, I attempted, this year, to grow my first giant Peruvian corn. As mentioned above, I got them to about 15-feet tall on average. For the record, they should have been taller. While still quite tall, they were only at the beginning of their potential in terms of true growth. Admittedly, I started them in late June, which was my first mistake; they really needed another month or so to fully ripen. Secondly, they were hit with an awful windstorm shortly after reaching a height of about six or seven feet which knocked them all over. Having spent the entire week hoping they would make a recovery, I was relived when they did begin to set down new support roots and straighten back up. However, I think this caused them to be a little stunted at a point when they should have been using their nutrients for better things than simply healing damage. Finally, the fall came and with it, the frost. Fortunately, the first few frosts didn’t seem to affect the corn negatively; in fact, the few ears that had started seemed to really grow at this point. But after the next few frosts, the whole of the plants began to die, and growth was brought to an end. I think the cold weather helped them because, in Peru, they have very cold mornings and evenings due to the mountainous region and differing weather patterns they are grown in. Regardless, this brought me to a definitive need to harvest before the plant rotted away. I husked the largest ear in search of the notorious ping-pong ball kernels. What I found, after several layers of husk, was a foot and a half long foam-like corn cob, still under-developed in comparison to what should have been. Alas, my great giant corn experiment had failed, most likely due to my late planting.

Out here, we try new things, we take a stab at the interesting things we’ve come across over the years, and we don’t always succeed in an outright manner. But the way out here, we put passion into practice, and while I may not have grown the giant corn of Peru, I learned a lot to help me do it better next year.

corn, crops, harvest

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