Plant Double Red Sweet Corn and surprise everyone

March 1, 2017

We all have a double, or as the Germans say “Doppelgänger.” You might double check that your double hasn’t double parked, and we all know that a double agent might double- cross you.

Even the Spanish doubloon come from double because a doubloon was worth twice as much as the popular Spanish gold pistole coin. And a corn that may cause a double take is Double Red Sweet Corn (Zea mays Double Red). The stalks are deep red, and even the husks are red.

But it is the shockingly red and purple kernels that make Double Red special. Their dark color comes from the same healthy anthocyanins that color blueberries. This amazing corn is from Alan Kapuler, PhD of Peace Seeds, who chose not to patent it so that everyone can grow it. 

Double Red Sweet Corn is open-pollinated sweet corn that is not only great as steamed corn on the cob but does double duty as a fine grinding corn. Surprise everyone with red cornbread. 

The short, stocky plant with red stalks and red corn husks is pretty enough to use as an ornamental. The plants yield two ears on every plant. Because sweet corn needs a lot of nitrogen, add generous amounts of compost or well rotted manure to your soil. Plant in full sun with a soil pH between 5.8 and 7.0. 

All corn is pollinated by the wind; best results are from planting in blocks of at least four rows. Avoid single rows or not all the ears will be pollinated, and you will end up with ears not filled out. 

For better germination soak your seeds in room-temperature water for a few hours before planting them. Plant the seeds one to two inches deep, eight inches apart. You can also plant four or five seeds in a small mound or hill with each hill a foot apart. The seeds will germinate within two weeks. Water your sweet corn regularly, but do not let the soil get soggy. 

Ears will be ready to pick for fresh corn on the cob within 85 days. Double Red is a Standard (su) type of sweet corn. This is the oldest type of sweet corn, and has more sugar and less starch than dent or field corn. As one of the oldest types of corn, su sweet corn is usually hardier and easier to grow than modern hybrids.

Once picked, sweet corn immediately starts to convert sugar to starch, so cook it as soon as you can after picking. 

Because Double Red sweet corn is open pollinated, and not hybrid, you can save your own seeds for next year. 

To save seeds, let the ears dry on the stalks until they are brown. Pull back the husk and hang the ears indoors in a cool, dry area out of direct sunlight. Carefully remove the seed kernels, either by rubbing two cobs together or simply pulling them off hand. 

Sweet corn will cross pollinate with other types of corn, even popcorn and livestock corn. You need to isolate your seed corn from all other corn by a half mile to a one mile. Better to cover each tassel with a bag and each ear with another bag to prevent pollination.

Shake the pollen from the tassels into the bag, then gently dust the silk on each ear. Cover the pollinated ears again with a bag. You can order special corn bags from Seed Savers Exchange ( 

This year do something good for yourself and something fun, and plant Double Red Sweet Corn.

Your delicious ears will also be healthier than any other corn. So slather butter onto healthy Double Red sweet corn and have fun doing something bad with something good, or is that a double entendre?

  • Paul Barbano writes about gardening from his home in Rehoboth Beach. Contact him by writing to P. O. Box 213, Lewes, DE 19958.

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