I’m growing corn in my file cabinet.
Actually, I’m growing something called “corn shoots.” In seven to 10 days, they’ll be ready for harvest, and I hear they’re delicious. Why the file cabinet? These shoots taste best when they grow in darkness, so they’re blanched. Instead of bright green, the shoots are pale yellow. Farmers have long used blanching techniques to improve the flavor of certain vegetables; examples include Belgian endive, “white” asparagus and celery.
I heard about corn shoots from Spencer and Mara Welton, who run Half Pint Farm, just down the road from our office here in Burlington, VT. “Corn shoots are not very good as green shoots — think wheat grass texture and chlorophyll bitterness,” Spencer says. “When blanched, they are really sweet and interesting, almost stevia-like in their sweetness.”
I bought the seed from Johnny’s Selected Seeds in Maine, where it’s listed as Popcorn for Shoots. They also several other seeds for shoots: peas, sunflowers and nasturtiums. I’m also trying the peas, which will grow under lights.
In the planting instructions, Johnny’s says, “Seeds are planted in a soilless media, and their young greens can then be used for salad mixes, as garnishes, or for eating alone. A variety of plants can be used for producing edible shoots. Peas, popcorn, nasturtiums and sunflowers are commonly used.” Although these shoots are similar to microgreens, they’re a bit bigger. Most will grow to 5″ tall. And unlike sprouts — where you eat the seeds and all — shoots are harvested at the soil line with a scissors.
The planting technique for all shoots is similar. You soak the seed for eight hours, then plant in a shallow tray of potting soil that’s about an inch deep. Keep the soil moist and harvest in seven to 14 days with a scissors.
Stay tuned for harvest and taste test.